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Agriculture & Environment


Related Documents 

Halton Region is home to an active and vibrant farming industry, which includes a wide range of farming types, including livestock operations, cash crops, fruit and vegetable growers, horse farms, nurseries and more.

Rural Agricultural Strategy

Halton Region is developing a Rural Agricultural Strategy. A Public Information Centre (PIC) will be held to provide an opportunity for the public to review and comment on the background report. More information

Halton Region Agricultural Forum

The forum is a chance to network with peers, learn from engaging speakers and communicate your needs. More information

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Halton residents have inherited a rich and diverse natural legacy that includes a wide range of plants and wildlife, unique features and areas of spectacular beauty.

Part of Halton’s long-term planning vision is to maintain our natural heritage and to pass this on to future generations.

Formation of Halton's Physical Character

Halton's natural environment is comprised of a connected system of physical features (landforms, soils, water) and biological features (plants and wildlife). Halton's layered bedrock of shale and dolomite originated 300 to 400 million years ago.

It was left behind when the vast tropical seas, which once covered most of central North America, receded. Over time, dolomite outcroppings were formed by the underlying shale eroding more quickly than the harder dolomite. Steep scarps, or cliffs, were created as these outcroppings eventually broke away. These scarps, which dominate the physical character of Halton by crossing it diagonally from the north to the south, are better known as the Niagara Escarpment.

The landscape of Halton has also been shaped by glaciers, which scoured the bedrock at the end of the last ice age. When the glaciers retreated, they left behind a thick layer of fertile till soils in south eastern Halton, now an important farming area, and deposited thin stony soils over the bedrock north of the escarpment.

The present drainage patterns also became established as the ice withdrew from the area. The region is predominantly drained by four major watercourses: Bronte Creek, Sixteen Mile Creek, Grindstone Creek and the Credit River.

Biological Features

The great varieties of soil and physical features in Halton, along with a climate ideal for vegetation growth, have combined to create environments which support a wide variety of plants and wildlife.

Rare and unusual plants and wildlife can be found within the Region. Prior to settlement, Halton was extensively forested. The first settlers cleared the trees for lumber. As that resource dwindled, saw mills were changed to grist mills and much of the land was used for farming. Today many of Halton’s remnant natural areas are integrated within the rural and urban areas and make up Halton.

Halton is relatively distinctive in that two of Canada's eight major forest types are represented here: the Southern Deciduous Forest Region and the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Forest Region.

The Southern Deciduous Forest Region once covered most of the mid-eastern United States. This area is also commonly referred to as the Carolinian Zone in reference to the many species which have affinity with areas further to the south. The only Canadian portion is confined to areas bordering Lake Erie and western Lake Ontario. In Halton, it is generally located south of Highway 5 where urbanization and agriculture have restricted this forest type to small areas, primarily in major stream valleys. Since the Southern Deciduous Forest is at its northern limit in Halton, the presence of any "Carolinian" trees and plants here is significant. Indeed, Halton residents are fortunate to be able to see such nationally, provincially and regionally rare or uncommon "southern" plants as Flowering Dogwood, Sassafras, White Trout lily, Sweet Chestnut, and American Colombo.

The Niagara Escarpment provides habitat for a wide variety of plants, such as Hart's tongue Fern, Walking Fern and Green Violet.

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Forest Region originally covered most of Southern Ontario and is evident in the northern three quarters of Halton. The largest continuous forest area of this type remaining in Halton is the Halton Forest Complex near Hilton Falls, which covers about 2,900 hectares (7,200 acres) and represents the original forest environment. The typical trees present in this area are: Sugar Maple, Beech, White Pine and Yellow Birch.

Preserving Halton's Natural Environment

One of Halton Region’s first major tasks since it was established in 1974 was to prepare a Regional Official Plan (ROP) to guide the overall development of the region. Early in the ROP preparation process, residents identified the protection of Halton's natural environment as a high priority.

A major study identified significant natural areas of the regional landscape. These Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) (PDF file) were incorporated into the Regional Plan with corresponding policies to assist in their long term preservation. ESAs have been replaced in successive versions of the Regional Plan and the focus in the current version is on protection of a Natural Heritage System as a whole.

Private Stewardship - The Cornerstone of Natural Heritage Protection

Some of Halton's Natural Heritage features and areas are owned by Halton Region, or been acquired by other government agencies for all to enjoy. The Region’s Greenlands Securement Program is designed to assist our partners in securing new conservation lands to expand this network of parks and open space. Many other natural heritage areas are privately owned. Landowners who are aware of the natural features on their property often appreciate their property more. As a result, they endeavour to maintain that special quality. This kind of private stewardship is the cornerstone for future protection of Halton's remaining natural heritage features.

Halton Today

Halton’s natural surroundings include nearly 18,500 hectares (45,714 acres) of forests, wetlands, river and stream corridors, and large sections of the Lake Ontario Shoreline and the Niagara Escarpment. Halton is committed to permanently protecting and enhancing Halton’s natural heritage.

Halton is considered a provincial leader in natural heritage protection and enhancement, and has been recognized for implementing strong and innovative natural heritage protection planning policies. Continuing this legacy, innovative Natural Heritage System (NHS) protection measures were recently added to the ROP to ensure that Halton’s biological diversity and ecological functions will be preserved for future generations. As a result, approximately 50 per cent of the region is protected in the ROP as part of Halton’s NHS.

In addition to the NHS, the ROP was also recently amended to include an Agricultural System, containing lands designated Agricultural Area and certain portions of the NHS. Agricultural operations are promoted and supported as compatible uses in the protection of the NHS where it overlaps with the Agricultural System.

Natural Heritage Advisory Committee (NHAC)

In 1976, to pursue its commitment to maintaining the region’s natural environment, Regional Council established an Advisory Committee to provide expert technical advice on environmental matters. This Committee, called the Halton Ecological and Environmental Advisory Committee (EEAC), was among the first of its kind in Ontario; but it has since been replaced by the Natural Heritage Advisory Committee (NHAC). NHAC advises and assists the Region in managing and conserving Halton’s natural environment.

Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System

The EcoPark (external link) is a collaborative initiative to protect, restore and connect almost 1,900 hectares (4,700 acres) of natural lands at the western end of Lake Ontario. This is one of the most biologically rich areas of Canada, home to nearly a quarter of the country’s wild plant species and more than 50 species at risk. It is also the last intact ecological connection between the Lake Ontario wetlands and the Niagara Escarpment.

The EcoPark System’s vision is to be known internationally as a protected, permanent and connected natural lands sanctuary from the Harbour to the Escarpment that promotes ecosystem and human health within Ontario’s Greenbelt. The Region and 8 other government, academic, and NGO agencies have partnered together to advance this vision.