A belated Happy New Year from Land Over Landings. And happy International Year of Soils!
Yes, 2015 has been declared by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Soils. Soil, the ground beneath our feet. Ignored, taken for granted, and yet vital to our very existence.
Coincidentally, this is also the year when the greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine plans are reviewed. Both the greenbelt and moraine spread across the federal lands, once known locally as the ‘Airport Lands’, although there’s never been an airport on them, just farms. And 2015 is also a federal election year, when the fate of the lands will again become an election issue. Could the stars be aligning?
We hear lots of sombre news about the environment and the economy, and certainly the reality of climate change is both real and frightening. But we needn’t feel helpless. While thinking globally we have an opportunity to act locally.
For 43 years, the federal lands in Pickering and Uxbridge have been a physical and political millstone; the uncertainty that haunts them dragging down communities and plaguing governments. Could 2015 be the year this changes? The year the ‘Airport Lands’ are protected forever as ‘farmland’? The year they become an asset again, not a drain?
We believe it can happen. Especially when we’re supported in our decades-long crusade by Environmental Defence, the Greenbelt Alliance, and the David Suzuki Foundation, all of which recognize the inestimable value of our Class 1 soil. On Jan. 28 we’ll join together in Brougham for a townhall to discuss threats to the greenbelt, including the proposed airport, moderated by longtime greenbelt champion, Ajax Mayor Steve Parish.
In this International Year of Soils, what better time for our politicians at all levels and in all parties to finally preserve the best soil there is? Protecting the federal lands as a food hub would right an historic injustice and allow this area to revive and thrive as it returns to its traditional role of feeding the ever-growing population of Canada’s largest urban centre. Not for the short term, but for generations to come.

— Mary Delaney is the chairwoman of Land Over Landings, dedicated to preserving the Federal Lands of North Pickering and Uxbridge for agriculture.