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Profiling the Native Plant Imperative in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Rob Messervey, Vice-Chair, Ontario Native Plant Growers Association

The Economy of Hope report references the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) and its intent to foster global momentum for ecological restoration activities. It also references the recent U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-15), which passed global-level goals with supporting targets that include achieving the conservation and management of 30% of the world’s land and coastal areas and restoration of 30% of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. It is good that the report references the macroscale. We can embrace those noble global intentions at a GGH scale. For instance, we readily reference the federal targets of 30% natural coverage for healthy watersheds and 75% natural coverage for healthy riparian areas in the work we collectively do in ecological restoration. 

We have so much opportunity in Ontario to translate these broader global goals and targets and federal policy guidance into our efforts in promoting the ecological restoration imperative across the GGH and southern Ontario. For example, we have the Greenbelt, and within that, the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine, all with supportive legislation and provincial Plans. The Oak Ridges Moraine, a 160-km long natural heritage and hydrological feature in populated southern Ontario including the GGH, is a tremendous model for a systems approach to climate change mitigation through ecological restoration work on a broad systems scale. At another scale, our unique watershed management agencies, Conservation Authorities, have developed watershed management plans and natural heritage strategies and plans and climate change strategies in keeping with the broader provincial policy and planning frameworks. And at the municipal level, the City of Toronto has an excellent policy document in the form of its Toronto Green Standard for regionally sourced native plants for ravines and new development areas and supports provincial policy in many respects. These examples all tie together.   

Looking forward, we have a timely opportunity to utilize the upcoming (2025) Provincially-led 10-year reviews of the various Provincial Plans – the Growth Plan, the Greenbelt Plan, the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan -  to collectively advance, in a coordinated way, the imperative to imbed policy-based commitments to meet restoration targets over the next 10 year timeframe of the Plans. With strengthened provincial policy leadership in this form we can engage all levels of government, First Nations, major NGOs, conservation authorities, the agriculture sector, the business sector, the native plant industry, and communities to mobilize.