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Regional Official Plan Review: Natural Heritage

Halton Region is reviewing natural heritage system policies to preserve the natural environment and protect source water. Learn more about our review's scope.

Why is Natural Heritage being addressed in the Official Plan Review?

Halton Region, like all municipalities in Ontario, is responsible for protecting the natural environment. Preserving the natural environment has been a key component of Halton’s Official Plan since the 1980s. The goal of the Natural Heritage System is to increase the certainty that the biological diversity and ecological functions within Halton Region will be preserved and enhanced for future generations. The Natural Heritage System now protects about 50% of Halton Region.

The Region is currently working on an update to the Official Plan. The Natural Heritage Discussion Paper sets out proposed objectives and actions for the Region related to strengthening the long-term viability of Halton Region’s natural heritage and water resources through land-use planning. Through this review, the Region will:

  • review of current ROP policies and mapping relating to Halton’s Natural Heritage System (NHS);
  • review of the Region’s Natural Heritage policies to be consistent with updated Provincial plans;
  • incorporate the Natural Heritage System for the Growth Plan and update the Regional Natural Heritage System mapping; and
  • explore new opportunities to meet the objectives of the Halton Region Strategic Business Plan 2019-2022.

General Questionnaire

The Niagara Escarpment

The Regional Natural Heritage System is an approach to protecting and enhancing natural features and functions. It is built on the foundation of key natural heritage features and areas and is consistent with the policies of the Provincial Policy Statement. To learn more about those key features and components visit Regional Official Plan Explained - Natural Heritage System.

Natural Heritage and Water Resources Systems: Why they matter

The Natural Heritage and Water Resource System provide environmental, health, economic, and cultural benefits for us and future generations.

The Natural Heritage System is made of wetlands, woodlands, rivers, lakes and other natural areas that have ecological significance. These are locations that are home to many plants and wildlife and green spaces we frequent such as regional forests, conservation areas and parks.

The Water Resource System is made of ground and surface water features like seeps, springs, wetlands and rivers that provide water to residents and perform many other vital functions for the environment.   

Winter in rural Halton

Refinements to Halton’s Natural Heritage System

Natural Heritage System policies and mapping will require updates to:

  • be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement and conform to Provincial Plans;
  • improve and clarify existing natural heritage policies;
  • identify planning objectives needed to preserve and enhance the Region's Natural Heritage System and;
  • improve the accuracy of the Natural Heritage System mapping. Refinements to the mapping may result in removals or additions to the Natural Heritage System.

The draft Natural Heritage System mapping is available on Halton Region’s website.  Following the public consultation on the Natural Heritage Discussion Paper, Regional planning staff will consult with property owners who may be affected by the mapping changes.

The Greenbelt Natural Heritage System was developed by the Provincial government in 2005 and it is currently identified through policy and mapping in the Regional Official Plan.

The Growth Plan, 2019 now identifies a Natural Heritage System for the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe policies and mapping that must be incorporated into the Region’s Official Plan.

Water Resource System

The Region must now identify a water resource system following recent changes to the Provincial plans. A water resource system is a vast interconnected system of groundwater features, hydrologic features, natural heritage features and areas, and surface water features including shoreline areas. These features and areas are necessary for the ecological and hydrological integrity of a watershed.

Drinking Water Source Protection

Sourcewater Protection Plans help protect drinking water in Halton Region in keeping with the Clean Water Act, 2006. These plans have policies and mapping that must be implemented through land use planning and requires Halton’s Official Plan to be updated.

Each Sourcewater Protection Plan applies to a geographic area based on watersheds and Conservation Authority jurisdiction so the boundaries do not correspond with municipal boundaries. Halton Region is located in three different watersheds and as such is subject to the policies of three Sourcewater Protection Plans: Halton-Hamilton Source Protection Plan, Credit Valley-Toronto and Region-Central Lake Ontario Source Protection Plan and the Grand River Source Protection Plan.

Crawford Lake

Groundwater provides potable water for one in eight Halton residents.

Natural hazards

Recent changes to the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 place a greater emphasis on avoiding rather than mitigating natural and human-made hazards. Natural hazards in the Provincial Policy Statement include hazardous lands, flooding hazards, erosion hazards, dynamic beach hazards and wildland fire. The Regional Official Plan policies and mapping for natural hazards should be strengthened and revised to address the new policies in the Provincial Policy Statement.

Conservation Authorities have been delegated responsibilities from the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to represent the provincial interests regarding natural hazards. There are three Conservation Authorities that have jurisdiction in Halton Region: Conservation Halton, Credit Valley Conservation Authority and the Grand River Conservation Authority.

Get involved and have your say!

The Regional Official Plan shapes how and where Halton grows—and your input is valuable as we make these decisions for our community!

To help you learn more about this topic, you can read our Natural Heritage Discussion Paper (PDF file). The paper provides more detailed information about how climate change relates to the Regional Official Plan.

Our general and technical questionnaires are now closed. We will continue to welcome feedback through the next stages of the Regional Official Plan Review process. Please check the Regional Official Plan Review page regularly or sign up to receive email notifications to stay up to date. If you have any questions or comments, please email or call 311.

Summer in rural Halton

If you require an alternative format or need accommodation, please call 311, email, TTY 905-827-9833 or 1-866-442-5866. We will work with you to meet your needs.