STORM Coalition (Save the Oak Ridges Moraine)
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Designed by Polly Ko


Save The Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition is focused on protecting the ecological integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Since 1989, STORM has been working at the local and regional levels to ensure that municipalities make good planning decisions that respect the environmental significance of the moraine and that take into account its ecological and hydrological functions.

In the process of working cooperatively, STORM and its member groups have established a relationship of mutual support and the sharing of information and resources that has been applied at both the local and regional levels. It has been the intent of STORM to participate in environmental, land use planning and policy issues, and furthermore, to safeguard the moraine from inappropriate development which would have profound cumulative and irreversible impacts.

STORM’s years of experience in policy and planning on the Oak Ridges Moraine and its well-developed network of local and regional contacts were critical to the campaign that saved (legislatively) the Oak Ridges Moraine. In 2001, the Ontario Legislature unanimously enacted the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act and in 2002 the province established the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan.

The new planning environment has allowed STORM to shift from advocating for the protection of the moraine to ensuring that the protections put in place through provincial legislation are properly implemented. As a planning organization, STORM remains a leader of moraine protection by focusing on the moraine’s natural and cultural heritage, and facilitating and implementing policy monitoring and best planning practices.

Leading this transition is a dedicated group of people including the Board of Directors, special advisors and staff. For more information please contact us.


info (at)

Moraine Headquarters:


Headquarters mailing address:

Sheppard House
93A Industrial Parkway South
Aurora, Ontario
L4G 3V5

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Oak Ridges Moraine Protection: A Brief History

STORM has been integrally involved in the political and planning environment of the Oak Ridges Moraine since 1989.

The idea for a coalition on the Oak Ridges Moraine flowed out of a meeting in October 1989 of community-based groups and individuals concerned about development pressures in different areas of the Oak Ridges Moraine. It quickly became apparent that the stories were describing common local concerns of urban development, aggregate applications, disappearing forests and that this was a larger issue that extended over many watersheds and municipalities. In March 1990, Save the Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization.

Recognizing the problems presented by multi-jurisdictional governance (24 area municipalities and eight regional and county upper-tier municipalities) along its 160-kilometre length, STORM's primary goal, from the outset, was to seek provincial legislation for the Oak Ridges Moraine, modelled after the highly successful Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act and Plan. Closely related to this goal was the urgent need for ecosystem-based land-use planning that acknowledged the fragility of watersheds and headwaters regions. And since so many rivers, creeks and streams have their source in the moraine, STORM's active concern has extended to the watersheds on both sides of this height of land.

STORM played a key role in raising the profile of the moraine at both the local and provincial levels, resulting in an "expression of provincial interest" in the moraine in 1990 by the provincial government. STORM was appointed as one of 14 members of the provincial Oak Ridges Moraine Technical Working Committee from 1991 to 1994. This three-year planning study produced the first comprehensive long-term strategy for the Moraine in 1994. STORM was also involved in the citizens' advisory committee appointed to coordinate public consultation on the strategy. However, the province never implemented this long-term strategy.

In 1999 the Regions of York, Durham and Peel initiated a joint regional initiative on the Oak Ridges Moraine. The draft report, entitled Towards a Long Term Strategy for the Oak Ridges Moraine, called on the provincial government to show leadership for moraine protection. STORM worked closely throughout 1999-2002 with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Earthroots on joint projects to get the attention of the public, the provincial government and the media as well as facilitating the involvement of other key environmental organizations in the general call for action.

On May 17, 2001 the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Act was passed. This legislation created a six-month development freeze and charted the path for a consultative process involving, again, a government-appointed multi-stakeholder committee. STORM was a member of the Oak Ridges Moraine Advisory Panel, bringing its 12 years of experience and perspective into the mix. The recommendations of the advisory panel formed the basis of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act (the Act), which was unanimously enacted by the Ontario Legislature on December 14, 2001. Four months later, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (the Plan) was approved as a regulation under the new legislation. Patterned in large part on the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan is a comprehensive ecosystem-based planning framework that sets firm urban boundaries around Settlement Areas (8% of the Oak Ridges Moraine planning area); identifies and protects Natural Core Areas (38% of the moraine) and Natural Linkage Areas (24% of the moraine); and sets aside agricultural land and other rural land uses in Countryside Areas (30% of the moraine). The Plan focuses on protecting headwater areas, watersheds and groundwater features and functions, as well as forests, wetlands and farmland, and is the jumping-off point for "smart growth" across Ontario.

Equally important is the example that the moraine legislation and protection campaign sets for other communities and natural areas in the province threatened by urban sprawl. While the Oak Ridges Moraine and Niagara Escarpment Plans have some similarities, there are a number of key differences. Perhaps the most significant is how the provincial plan is to be implemented. Unlike the Niagara Escarpment Plan, which is overseen by a provincially-funded and administered agency (the Niagara Escarpment Commission), the moraine legislation establishes municipalities as the primary implementers and sets out a timetable for municipalities to bring their official plans and zoning by-laws into conformity with the Plan's policies. After this 12- to 18-month period, all planning decisions and approvals are the responsibility of the municipality and must comply with the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. As well, there are a number of other prescribed milestones requiring municipal action. This model of a provincial plan being implemented by municipalities has no precedent in Ontario and as such requires careful monitoring to ensure effective implementation and adherence to the intent of the Plan.

On December 14, 2001 STORM's vision of moraine-specific legislation and provincial land use plan for the Oak Ridges Moraine was realized. However, experience tells us that regulation, on its own, is insufficient and that political will, an engaged and informed public, and private and public partnerships are all essential to ensure long-term success.

The Monitoring the Moraine project is a response by citizens of environmental organizations to the need for broad-based partnerships and credible ecological and policy data about the state of the environment and implementation of the Plan.

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Copyright 2007 Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition