On September 30, 2015, Lennox and Addington County Council adopted its first Official Plan and it was approved by the Province on March 9, 2016. A requirement of the County Official Plan is to establish a Natural Heritage System for the portion of the County that is included within Ecoregions 6E and 7E, which are located to the south of the Canadian Shield, as per the Provincial Policy Statement.
What is a Natural Heritage System?
The Natural Heritage System is made up of wetlands, woodlands, valleylands, watercourses, significant wildlife habitat, areas of natural and scientific interest and the linkages between natural heritage features. The Province of Ontario requires municipalities to identify Natural Heritage Systems and preserve the diversity and connectivity of these features.
This requirement is translated into policies that inform development, stewardship actions, climate change resiliency, environmental studies, and conservation efforts.
Before 2005, Ontario municipalities were required to identify natural heritage features such as significant wetlands and forests. Since 2005, provincial direction has included a systems-based approach which includes identifying core natural features, corridors, and buffers. A systems-based approach recognizes the interconnectedness of the landscape, and the ineffectiveness of protecting just a wetland, river, or woodland without considering its connectivity with other features.
The goal of developing land use planning policies for the Natural Heritage System is to increase the certainty that the biological diversity and ecological functions within the County will be preserved and enhanced for current and future generations.
Why is the Natural Heritage System important?
The Natural Heritage System contributes to the health and well being of residents by making important contributions to surface and ground water quality, forest cover, flood and erosion control, air quality, and pollination. The NHS also contributes to reducing risks associated with climate change and helps inform the County’s climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Land Use Planning and Natural Heritage Systems
As the local decision makers of land use at the local level, municipalities play a key role in protecting Natural Heritage Systems. Municipal Official Plans set the direction for land use, in accordance with provincial policy.
The Provincial Policy Statement (2020) requires that natural heritage features and areas be protected for the long term. It provides policy direction that puts restrictions on development that vary from outright prohibitions (e.g., no development permitted within a provincially significant wetland) to an applicant required to demonstrate that there will be no negative impact on natural features or their ecological functions during construction of a proposed development.
A robust Natural Heritage System with a strong associated policy framework described in a municipal Official Plan sets the stage for the planning of healthy and resilient communities.
The County retained Meridian Planning Consultants and North South Environmental Inc. to prepare a Natural Heritage System Strategy that will be implemented in the County’s Official Plan. This will be completed by identifying the Natural Heritage System on a map and including policies that apply to lands within and adjacent to the Natural Heritage System. The study process is divided into two phases:
- Review and update existing data and set biodiversity/ecological function targets;
- Review of County Official Plan and PPS policies;
- Analyze potential features and linkages and draft NHS mapping;
- Prepare draft recommendations in a draft natural heritage system strategy report;
- Meet with the technical advisory group and stakeholders; and
- Host open house sessions to obtain feedback from the public.
- Finalize Natural Heritage System mapping;
- Prepare final background report;
- Meet with the technical advisory group and stakeholders;
- Host open house sessions to obtain feedback from the public;
- Present Natural Heritage System and background report at a public meeting; and
- Finalize Natural Heritage System background report and mapping, and present to Council for adoption.
The Draft Natural Heritage System Study can be found here: Draft Study
The Open House presentation slides can be found here: NHS Slides.
The deadline for comments is December 2, 2022. Please contact:
Anna Geladi, Planner, Community & Development Services, Lennox & Addington County at 613-354-4883 extension 2377 or via email.