Earthroots Fund

Earthroots is a leading grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of Ontario’s wilderness, wildlife, and watersheds through research, education and action. We work in coalition with other conservation organizations to coordinate the best strategies to move issues forward.

Our Impact Why We Exist

Earthroots uses many techniques to gain increased protection for Ontario’s wild spaces, watersheds and biodiversity, including public education and mobilization, advocacy, research, media awareness, and peaceful activism. We have found that using all these tools together is an effective approach to achieving real results on the ground.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Founded as the Temagami Wilderness Society in 1986, the organization began with a focus on protecting Temagami’s unique old-growth red and white pine forests. Through a large scale public outreach campaign, an on-going series of peaceful protests, media events, and ground-breaking primary research in this endangered ecosystem, Earthroots was successful in raising international awareness about the importance of and threats to Temagami. By acting as a leading advocate and participant in the Temagami Comprehensive Land Use Planning Process from 1990-1996, Earthroots helped to accomplish the permanent protection of 44% of the ancient red and white pine forests in the region.

In 1991 the organization changed its name to Earthroots in order to broaden its mandate to conservation issues across the province. Earthroots continues to use its grassroots expertise to organize, educate and mobilize the public, conduct successful media events, carry out research projects, advocate for stronger legislation, and ensure proper land-use planning both for our northern forests and greenspaces in southern Ontario. We represent approximately 12,000 supporters and the majority of our funding comes from the public. In the spring of 2010 Earthroots was nominated as one of the top 10 finalists for Earth Day Canada’s Hometown Heroes Award.

Accolades and Accomplishments

Temagami's Ancient Pine Forests

  • Protection of 44% of Temagami’s ancient pine forests (1996)
  • Implementation of integrated resource and recreation management planning (2004)
  • Increased protection of the Solace Wildlands by halting the construction of a logging bridge across the Sturgeon River (2009)

Parks and Protected Areas

  • Protection of 2.4 million hectares of public land through the Lands for Life planning process (1999)
  • Introduction of a new Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act with stronger legislation for protected areas (2005)

Wolf Conservation

  • Protection of Algonquin Park’s threatened wolf population with a permanent ban on hunting and trapping wolves around the park (2004)
  • Implementation of the first restrictions on wolf hunting as part of a broader wolf conservation strategy (2005)
  • Protection of wolves and coyotes from hunting in the Kawartha Highlands (2009)

Southern Ontario Greenspaces

  • Protection of 190,000 hectares of threatened wetlands, marshes and forests through the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act (2001)
  • Protection of 1.8 million acres of environmentally sensitive / agricultural lands in the Golden Horseshoe under the Greenbelt Act (2005)
  • Combined efforts with local citizens and STORM Coalition defeated a controversial water diversion / development proposal in Fraserville (2010) 

Our Programs How We Do It

With urban sprawl stretching from Oshawa to Hamilton and Niagara, and with growth estimates projecting about 4 million new residents for Southern Ontario by 2031, healthy watersheds, wildlife habitat, and prime agricultural land are all being threatened by urban sprawl. Regardless of where we live, we all rely on the natural services provided by the greenspaces surrounding our communities. These services include storing and filtering our drinking water and providing clean air and soil – this in turn supports wildlife / biodiversity and enables us to produce local sustainable food. Our greenspaces also provide us with countless recreational opportunities and give us a sense of identity and a connection to our natural heritage.

Since 1998 Earthroots has been working to protect vital greenspaces in Southern Ontario. We are one of the groups that first advocated for protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine, and then the larger Provincial Greenbelt. While the Greenbelt was a huge victory, we must view it as a good first step. The level of protection actually offered within the Greenbelt is being compromised by certain policy gaps and weaknesses. As the Greenbelt nears its first review in 2015, our current campaigns are focused on improving this legislation while researching and monitoring what is happening on the ground and evaluating the effectiveness of existing policies.

Although our campaigns are by nature focused on areas outside of the city, our office is located in the heart of downtown Toronto and the majority of our outreach work is focused within the GTA. Public mobilization is key when advocating for policy change – Earthroots is raising awareness and educating Ontarians about the issues affecting their local environment while empowering citizens by giving them the tools to engage in and affect the decision making processes that are shaping the future of our communities.


Ontario Soil Regulation Task Force: Addressing the government's need to regulate soil movement in Ontario

In southern Ontario, millions of tonnes of excess soil are now being dumped in depressions, wetlands, old gravel pits at the water table, and farmers’ fields.  An unknown but not insignificant amount of it is contaminated with petroleum, heavy metals, and other toxins.  Farmland, wetlands and groundwater systems and our food and water security are being threatened.   Earthroots and project partner Save the Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition (STORM) have been collaboratively working on issues pertaining to water conservation for fifteen years. The problem of poor regulation in Ontario of excess soil came to our two organizations attention in 2010 when a group of citizens became active fighting a dump of contaminated soil in an area thought to have legislated protection under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan.  The citizens that opposed this dump formed a group called Lakeridge Citizens for Clean Water (LCCW).  All three of our organizations began supporting other groups outside of Toronto who had growing concerns about soil dumps popping up in their communities.  STORM, Earthroots and LCCW have recently met under the banner of the Ontario Soil Regulation Task Force (OSRTF) to expand beyond their local sites.  Soil dumping is one of the main threats to the Oak Ridges Moraine. The GTA's population is growing exponentially, and Toronto's construction market is amongst the leaders in the global market. The consequence of this is that road expansion, new subway projects, and condo developments are leading to more soil being excavated than ever before. The surplus of soil that's being carried away from construction sites is creating a whole new set of challenges for policy makers, as the current legislative framework does not sufficiently regulate the movement of soil in Ontario.

Funding and Program Partners

The ORSTF consists of three main groups: Earthroots, STORM, and LCCW. STORM is a not-for profit organization, that promotes long-term legislated protection to save the Oak Ridges Moraine in southern Ontario through education and advocacy at the local, regional and provincial levels. The main way they got engaged in this specific issue is due to the threats posed to groundwater and to overall quality of life. Millions of tonnes of excess soil from construction and brownfield redevelopment, some of it contaminated, are now being dumped in watershed areas outside the city, primarily on the Oak Ridges Moraine.

LCCW is a group of volunteers that banded together due their concern about the impact of the dumping of fill at a site on Lakeridge Road in Scugog. Their monitoring this case led to becoming actively involved in educating and engaging and working with newly formed community groups who are concerned about poorly regulated fill being dumped in their communities.

Program Impact

Individuals with OSRTF have had success in getting a few local municipalities to strengthen their environmental protection from commercial fill operations and contaminated soil. That knowledge and experience will be built upon to educate other municipalities. Since the ORSTF has only recently formed, the overall impacts of the initiative will be seen in the coming years, as we proceed to move forward as a collaborative engaging municipal politicians, and attempting to get provincial policy makers to address the policy gaps surrounding commercial fill.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"The environment is a shared responsibility in Canada, between all three levels of government. The municipality has a vital role to play in policies and programs that manage land use, regulate the impact of transportation on the environment, reduce solid waste, and adapt to climate change"

The growing problem of what to do with excess soil in this province is something that needs attention from all levels of government. As organizations working on this issue, we have felt the growing concern over this issue not being properly captured by policy. Moving forward, we are going to raise the profile of this issue in communication with all levels of government.

Participant Vignette

"Addressing the issue of excess soil in Ontario, and the subsequent threat of groundwater contamination, requires a comprehensive approach. On one hand, this is an issue of old brownfield sites being redeveloped in Toronto. On the other hand, this is about a critical, emerging threat, where this soil that is being excavated is not being adequately tested, and we are seeing more and more examples of dirt that has not been properly tested, being dumped into hydrologically sensitive parts of the Oak Ridges Moraine, and surrounding Greenbelt area. We are seeing examples of soil of questionable quality being dumped in rural areas, where people directly rely on well water. We feel that the provincial government is not doing enough to address this growing problem, so we have formed the ORSTF, to start monitoring what's happening on the ground. The provincial government has tried to promote food security and the importance of clean drinking water. This issue represents a major threat to these principles. Clean water is absolutely crucial to agricultural communities."

- Debbie Gordon, Outreach Coordinator, STORM Coalition

Protecting Southern Ontario’s Greenspaces

Earthroots continues to play a leading role the implementation and monitoring of the Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt legislation. Weak policies regulating damaging aggregate extraction operations as well as new infrastructure projects like highways and pipelines have resulted in numerous projects moving forward on sensitive areas of the Greenbelt. As a result, certain environmentally destructive projects are being allowed to continue on allegedly ‘protected’ areas of the Greenbelt.

Earthroots is working on two separate research projects examining these issues. In 2008, we completed a case study examining the damaging effects that golf courses on the Oak Ridges Moraine are having on sensitive groundwater features in the Aurora/Newmarket area (Ontario’s Water Hazard). As a follow-up to this project, we are examining the water usage practices of golf courses, aggregate operations, industry, and municipalities across the Moraine. We are also involved in a collaborative project examining the effectiveness of the Greenbelt’s policies surrounding the protection of invaluable wetlands. The results of this research will be shared with relevant stakeholders including policy makers, the public, media, and other conservation groups. Our results will help us form recommendations for the upcoming review of the Greenbelt in 2015.

Funding and Program Partners

Earthroots’ 2008 report, Ontario’s Water Hazard: Examining the Cumulative Impacts of Golf Courses on Our Water Resources was a joint project completed with Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund). Our current Oak Ridges Moraine research examining the water usage of large water takers on the Moraine is another Earthroots-Ecojustice collaboration that has been generously funded by the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation and the McLean Foundation.

Our work examining the Greenbelt’s wetland policies is a collaboration with Ecojustice, Ontario Nature, and Ducks Unlimited Canada – this project has been generously funded by the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.

Program Impact

This work is an integral step building up to the 2015 review of Ontario’s Greenbelt, a process where Earthroots will be a strong voice advocating for increased protection of the Greenbelt’s invaluable forests, watersheds, and near-urban agricultural lands. The results of this research will also build our outreach campaigns and help us to mobilize the public prior to the review process. This project will enable Earthroots to give people the tools they need to advocate for the protection of the vital greenspaces in their own communities – the places that Southern Ontarians rely upon for long-term health and sustainability.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Southern Ontario, including the area around the GTHA, comprises some of Canada's best remaining farmland. Urban expansion has seriously eroded this valuable resource (latest Ontario figures indicate that 16% of farmland fell to urban development between 1996 and 2001)"

This quote exemplifies the threats associated with the high level of growth currently happening in the GTA, specifically how it impacts farmland. The Greenbelt Plan is an essential tool that was created to curb urban sprawl, and protect farmland.  As we approach the 2015 review of three essential policies, the Oak Ridges Moraine, Greenbelt and Niagara Escarpment Plans, there is a critical need to not just uphold these policies, but to strengthen them as well.

Participant Vignette

"Volunteering with Earthroots has been incredibly rewarding. Getting a glimpse into what it’s like to work for a non-profit environmental group has been an eye-opener for me. Understanding the challenges / rewards that environmental organizations face has been a valuable learning experience. Growing up in Stouffville, I have always valued the importance of the Oak Ridges Moraine, both as a water source, and a place for recreational opportunities. When I met staff from Earthroots in 2008, they were participating in U of T’s environmental career day. I was excited to hear about the work they were doing to get stronger protection in place for the Moraine. When I followed-up on the volunteering opportunity, the staff were diligent about finding me the right task; something that would be meaningful for me, and helpful to them. I assisted Earthroots in their work to curb urban sprawl and protecting key watersheds, by engaging with municipal planners in the Greenbelt, and trying to ensure that their municipalities were conforming with the regional planning tools and the provincial environmental policies they are operating under. Having just graduated from U of T, I am now considering furthering my education, and pursuing a Masters of Public Health, and Epidemiology. My time with Earthroots has been invaluable, and connects to what I am interested in studying. It is admirable how staff there work so hard to draw the links between human health, how our communities are constructed, and the preservation of our key natural features."

-Josephine Lau, Volunteer

What You Can Do

Ontario Soil Regulation Task Force: Addressing the government's need to regulate soil movement in Ontario

Activities a donation will support

In order to expand our work, a grant would allow Earthroots to:

  • Produce printed materials
  • Present to different municipalities about the importance of this issue
  • Meet regularly with provincial politicians (engage specific MPPs to support our initiative)
  • Engage experts (such as hydrogeoligists)
  • Host regular meetings with community groups

Donation impact

With financial support Earthroots and its project partners will be able to mobilize community members in both urban and rural areas, and develop a concerted, community-based approach to advocating for policy changes on a provincial level.

Protecting Southern Ontario’s Greenspaces

Activities a donation will support

As we work towards the 2015 review of Ontario’s Greenbelt, Earthroots will require funding to support our work:

  • Monitoring and researching the environmental impacts of development and other land-uses on the Greenbelt
  • Sharing our work with policy makers and advocating for increased protection of Southern Ontario’s greenspaces
  • Raising public awareness about outstanding environmental issues; developing advocacy tools to aid Ontarians in being active democratic citizens and environmental stewards

Collaborating with other conservation groups to identify the most pressing environmental issues in Ontario and developing the best strategies to address them.

Donation impact

The creation of Ontario’s Greenbelt was a huge victory and speaks to the important role not-for-profit groups like Earthroots play in pushing policy makers to do the right thing. The creation of the Greenbelt should however be considered a first step – and that is exactly why the government requires that this integral legislation be reviewed every 10 years. Earthroots needs increased support in our endeavours to raise awareness prior to the upcoming review in 2015; the public needs to know that the fight to preserve our vital greenspaces is far from over and that their voice can make a difference.


Amber Ellis
Executive Director
416.599.0152 x11
Charitable Number: 135165140RR0001

Finance & Governance


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