In 2001, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and Act passed into law. The conservation plan encompasses all 160 km of the moraine landform from the Trent River in the east to the Niagara Escarpment. The Act protects the moraine due to its vital ecosystem and unique underground water systems, which functions by recharging water through its sand and gravel, filtering water in underground aquifers and discharging the fresh water in the headwaters of 65 rivers and streams. The Don, Rouge, Humber and Ganaraska rivers begin in the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Due to its vital water function, water conservation is of primary importance on the Oak Ridges Moraine. The plan also protects environmental sensitive areas that naturally cleanse the water, such as kettle lakes, wetlands, meadows and forests. It is home to 300,000 people along with animals, plants and endangered species, which rely on its natural habitats. To experience the forests and fields on the moraine for yourself, consider walking a section of the Oak Ridges Trail.
Measuring the effectiveness of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan will be challenging due to the number of municipalities and the lack of compliance, enforcement and reporting requirements. The Conservation Plan is implemented by 32 municipalities. Municipal decisions must conform to the plan, but there are no reporting requirements for municipalities. As a result, it is unclear how many planning decisions are consistent or inconsistent with the plan. Despite the lack of reporting requirements, some useful data was collected by the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation, EcoSpark, and the Conservation Authorities Moraine Coalition.