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Study documents economic benefits from Canada's first urban National Park in the Rouge

TORONTO - The David Suzuki Foundation released a study today that for the first time estimates the economic benefits provided by farmland and green space within the proposed Rouge National Park and its surrounding watersheds in Scarborough, Markham, and Pickering. Natural Capital in Rouge National Park documents that the Rouge region provides essential ecosystem services that, conservatively, benefit residents of the Greater Toronto Area to the tune of more than $115 million each year. Rouge National Park, including the existing Rouge Park, is the ecological engine of the region and provides more than $12 million in critical ecosystem benefits for communities in the region.

"Today's study confirms that despite being in the middle of one of North America's fastest growing urban regions, the Rouge remains a vital natural asset that cleans the air, filters our water and provides recreational opportunities for millions of urban Canadians," said Dr. Faisal Moola, director of Ontario programs at the David Suzuki Foundation and a former Markham resident.

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The comprehensive study examined the stocks of natural areas, like carbon-rich wetlands and bogs, streams, forests, and fertile agricultural soils within the proposed 6,000-hectare urban National Park — which will be 18 times larger than New York City's Central Park. It also examined the natural capital of the area's surrounding major watersheds (Rouge River, Petticoat Creek and Duffins Creek) covering more than 64,000 hectares across the eastern GTA.

Using methods drawn from the burgeoning field of natural capital economics, non-market values were assigned to each ecosystem based on a suite of 14 types of services that natural ecosystems provide. This included the value of water filtration by wetlands and flood prevention by the area's forests. The findings demonstrate that despite decades of costly and polluting urban sprawl that has consumed thousands of hectares of green space and prime farmland across the GTA, the Rouge and its surrounding watersheds have remained a vital ecological — and economic — resource that continues to offer vast benefits. This stock of natural capital not only provide green infrastructure services like filtering air and water, it cools nearby neighbourhoods and provides a critical natural corridor for endangered wildlife, stretching from the shores of Lake Ontario to the protected Ontario Greenbelt.

The report documents that, within the total study area, forests provide an estimated $41.2 million in benefits per year, wetlands provide $34.9 million and idle agricultural lands provide $18.2 million in ecological services. Wetlands provide the greatest value per hectare, worth, on average, $9,648 per hectare, whereas industrial managed croplands in the area provide only an average value of $378 per hectare. The ecosystem services that contribute most to the total value are: pollination services, that sustain local crop yields, worth $28.2 million per year; stored carbon worth $17.8 million per year; and wetland habitat worth an estimated $17.1 million per year.

"Establishing Rouge National Park will create a bank of natural capital that will provide benefits for generations to come," said Moola. "While protecting, restoring and managing this wild gem will not come cheaply, these costs should be weighed against the huge dividends this investment in creating the National Park will reap for the GTA."

This past year, the federal government announced $140 million dollars in funding for the creation of Rouge National Park over the next 10 years and began a planning process for the creation of the Park. This has included a public consultation process that is seeking input from residents until September 17th, 2012. The David Suzuki Foundation hopes that the planning process will result in strong legislation that protects the Park's ecological health, including banning resource extraction and supporting local food production and sustainable agriculture.

Click here to see visualizations of the Rouge's ecosystem services created by OCAD University students.

For more information about the report, please contact:

Dr Faisal Moola, David Suzuki Foundation (416) 348-9885 ext (647) 456 5788 cell
Jode Roberts, David Suzuki Foundation (416) 348-9885 ext 1573

September 13, 2012

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