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The Ontario government says its investment of $20 million over the next four years will help expand protection and preservation of green and natural spaces across the province.

© Global News file Ontario is investing $20 million to help enhance protection of natural areas across the province.

On Tuesday in Baltimore, Ont., Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini was joined by Ontario Environment, Conservation and Parks Minister Jeff Yurek to highlight the funding in the Greenlands Conservation Partnership to help secure land of ecological importance and to promote Ontario’s natural areas.

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The funding was initially announced in the November 2020 budget as a commitment. The province says the funding will act as a partial match to private contributions to the partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance (OLTA)

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The province says the new funding will assist both organizations to “conserve, restore and manage” natural areas such as wetlands, grasslands and forests. The government says Ontario is home to more than 11 million hectares of protected areas, or 10.7 per cent of the province.

Piccini highlighted a project currently underway in his riding with the Rice Lake Plains that aims to foster the return of native grasses and species, wildflowers and insects along the lake just north of Cobourg.

“Now more than ever, it’s important that government and our partners step up our conservation efforts, given the worsening impacts of climate change,” said Piccini. “The Conservation Partnership investments will play an important role in preserving our natural diversity by conserving ecologically important natural areas, including right here in Northumberland County.”

Yurek noted the NCC and OLTA partnership will enable them to use private donations and funds from other non-provincial sources to match the province’s $20-million investment to secure new privately owned natural areas and restore and manage those properties.

“We are expanding the amount of green space across the province not only to help preserve the environment, but to promote physical activity such as hiking and improving our mental health,” said Yurek. “By taking this approach our government will be leaving a magnificent legacy for the benefit of future generations. It has been wonderful to be working with outstanding conservation leaders like the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance to achieve our shared goals.”

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Mike Hendren, regional vice-president of Ontario’s NCC, says the partnership and provincial funding will ensure lands are protected and conserved “for future generations.”

“Through this partnership, we are helping to ensure the province’s natural areas remain a home for wildlife, a haven for recreation and a vital resource that cleans the air we breathe and the water we drink,” he said.

Alison Howson, OLTA executive director, says her organization is “grateful” for the province’s leadership shown in supporting community land conservation.

“This support will provide real measurable benefits to highly sensitive, highly biodiverse, threatened habitats and ecosystems such as those found in southern Ontario,” she said. “The support shown by the province will help to provide big wins for nature, and community connection to nature across Ontario.”