Conservation volunteers in the Montreal Greenbelt, Quebec (Photo by NCC)
NCC protects 12,355 acres (5,000 hectares) of natural areas in and around Montreal — a surface area equivalent to more than 9,000 football fields! These protected lands can be found on the islands surrounding Montreal, at the foot of the Monteregian Hills, in the peat bogs of the Upper Saint Lawrence River and in some agricultural lands. NCC is a key contributor to the establishment of a greenbelt for Greater Montreal.
The greenbelt concept was originally developed in the United Kingdom in the 1930s, at a time when London was trying to stop urban sprawl. Today, “greenbelt” describes a group of protected natural areas that are linked by corridors with an ecological or recreational function, allowing flora and fauna to move about freely. Given that ecosystems must have adequate links between them in order to ensure the conservation of their biodiversity, the establishment of a greenway network is key to their protection.
In cities boasting greenbelts, such as Toronto and Ottawa, developed and natural areas are integrated. This allows the conservation of biodiversity while also improving air and water quality. In addition, citizens are provided with increased access to nature.
In some cases, greenbelts also help to prevent flooding and drought.
More than half of Quebec’s population is concentrated in Greater Montreal. But Montreal is not only the most densely populated region in the province; it is also situated in southern Quebec, where the greatest biodiversity and the best agricultural lands can be found. This is also where more than half of the province’s 250 threatened species live.
By establishing and protecting a large greenbelt in Greater Montreal, we will be able to collectively conserve natural areas and ecosystems for our children and grandchildren. This is exactly what the Plan métropolitain d’aménagement et de développement is proposing with its initiative, Trame verte et bleue (site in French only). This initiative aims to integrate sections of the major Montreal urban area with nature.