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Ont. students asked to help (heart) Greenbelt

Students in Ontario elementary and secondary schools are being asked to submit designs for new awards honouring boosters of the province’s Greenbelt.

The student art contest, announced Thursday, was the launch for the province’s new “I ♥ Greenbelt” awards, recognizing those who have “contributed significantly to supporting a strong and viable Greenbelt.”

The Greenbelt is a zone permanently protecting 1.8 million acres of agricultural and “environmentally sensitive” land around southern Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe.

The criteria and nomination process for the awards themselves are to be finalized later this spring, while the deadline for the student art contest is March 30. The winning design is to be announced in June, the province said.

“The design should showcase elements of the Greenbelt, such as recreation, wildlife, activities or food from the Greenbelt,” the province said.

According to the province, the Greenbelt provides essential ecosystem services or benefits for eight million Ontario residents across the Golden Horseshoe and research estimates the value of those environmental goods and services to be at least $2.6 billion per year.

While the designation ostensibly protects farmland from development, farmers have been wary about provincial proposals to expand the Greenbelt zone, as farmers own most of the land in question.

“Farmers support preserving farmland but steps need to be taken to ensure Greenbelted farmland stays productive so we can continue to provide safe, high-quality food to Ontarians,” Geri Kamenz, then president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, said in a release in August last year.

The OFA for years has asked the government to address issues such as wildlife predation of livestock, trespassing, crop damage and the issue of compensation for “ecological goods and services” which farmers cover out-of-pocket.

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