Natural Heritage System (Official Plan Amendment 42)

One of the City’s most valuable assets is its natural heritage system. How the City protects, maintains, enhances and restores its natural heritage system is part of an environment first approach for managing the natural heritage features and areas in the city. Our natural heritage system contributes to enhancing the quality of life within the city by protecting a wide range of natural features and ecological services, while also providing natural and open spaces for leisure activities and enjoyment opportunities for residents and visitors.
The City’s Natural Heritage System (NHS) is made up of a combination of natural heritage features and areas, including:

  • Significant Wetlands and Other Wetlands;
  • Significant Woodlands and Cultural Woodlands;
  • Significant Valleylands;
  • Significant Wildlife Habitats, including Ecological Linkages and Habitats for Significant Species;
  • Habitats of Endangered and Threatened Species;
  • Significant Landform;
  • Restoration Areas; and
  • Wildlife crossings.

Together, these elements represent the city’s biological, hydrological and geological diversity, support ecological and hydrologic functions, provide connectivity, support populations of indigenous species, and sustain local biodiversity.

The Natural Heritage System policies contained in Official Plan Amendment 42 form part of the Official Plan and replace the Greenland’s System policies of the 2001 Official Plan. These policies will be integrated into the Official Plan document through a future consolidation. A separate copy of the June 4, 2014 OMB approved amendment is attached below.

1 MBNatural Heritage System – Official Plan Amendment 42 1 MBOPA 42 Schedules

For more information

April Nix
Environmental Planner – Policy
Planning Services
519-822-1260 extension 2718
april.nix@guelph.ca

OMB decision information

City Council adopted the Natural Heritage System Amendment – Official Plan Amendment 42 on July 27, 2010. As Official Plan Amendment 42 concerns consistency with the Provincial Policy Statement, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was the approval authority. A decision was issued by the Ministry on February 22, 2011. Following the Ministry approval of OPA 42 a number of appeals were made to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approved OPA 42 – the Natural Heritage System Amendment on June 4, 2014 bringing it into force and effect. As approved by the OMB, the City now has a new Natural Heritage System that will be shown on the schedules of the Official Plan, along with supporting policies regarding the protection, restoration and enhancement of the Natural Heritage System within the text of the Official Plan.

The policies of the Natural Heritage System establish minimum standards for development applications within the city. This includes direction on where and how development may or may not occur both within and adjacent to the Natural Heritage System.

What is the effect of the OMB decision?

The OMB’s decision of June 4, 2014 approves a modified version of the Natural Heritage System amendment that incorporates changes made to the document through a number of settlements to various appeals. More information, including the decision can be found on the OMB website, under case number PL110278.

This decision means that the policies are now in force and effect for the City, with the exception of two specific sites that remain under appeal. This means that Planning Act applications, municipal Environmental Assessments and other similar projects will have to consider and address the requirements of the Natural Heritage System in addition to other policies and requirements of the Official Plan.

A complete copy of the Natural Heritage System Amendment as approved by the OMB is available below and should be used when preparing applications and reports to address the Natural Heritage System requirements.

1 MBNatural Heritage System – Official Plan Amendment 42

What changes were made through the OMB process?

A number of changes were made to the amendment. These changes were part of settlements that were supported by Council and have been approved by the OMB. The changes to OPA 42 include both policy changes and changes to the schedules and mapping.

Changes to the policies include:

  • Clarification of definitions, elimination of redundant or unnecessary terms, reduction of repetition and a consistent use of defined terms;
  • Clarification and reorganization of the policies to improve readability and ease of interpretation;
  • Standardization of where and how different types of infrastructure are permitted within and adjacent to natural heritage features and areas, including establishment of general requirements for avoiding negatives impacts where permitted;
  • Clarification to the habitat of endangered and threatened species policies to better align the City’s planning requirements with implementing processes for the Endangered Species Act;
  • Protection of significant portions of the Paris Galt Moraine as a significant landform, while introducing flexibility by allowing for changes to landform through the protection of alternate areas of the moraine that meet specific criteria.
  • Clarification to the significant wildlife habitat policies to better recognize and incorporate provincial guidance material from the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the analysis for significant wildlife habitat to consider the local and regional context;
  • Clarification, refinement and increased flexibility of the Habitat for Significant Species objectives, criteria and policies; and,
  • Revisions to the Schedules in line with the above changes.

To help understand the changes, a tracked version of the amendment is available below. The document identifies changes made as part of settlements approved by the OMB, as well as separate administrative changes made by the City.

7 MBTracked Natural Heritage System – Official Plan Amendment 42 version

Are there any appeals remaining?

No, all of the appeals have been resolved.

Implementation tools and resources

Natural Heritage Strategy

The preparation of a citywide Natural Heritage Strategy was recommended by the City’s Environmental Action Plan which was endorsed by Council in 2003. In 2004 the City started a background study to collect information about the natural environment to support the development of new tools and policies to help manage, protect and restore natural resources within Guelph.

This background study is the Natural Heritage Strategy and includes:

  • A review of available natural heritage background information;
  • Opportunities for community consultation, education and outreach about natural spaces and their management and protection;
  • Recommended criteria for identifying important natural spaces;
  • Recommended methods and monitoring of natural spaces to collect additional information; and,
  • Recommendations to support the development of new policies and guidelines for the City.

The Natural Heritage Strategy was broken into three phases and completed over 6 years. A steering committee consisting of community members, agency representatives and City staff provided input throughout this process. In addition surveys, public open houses and public meetings were used to gain additional input from the community. Phase 1 of the Natural Heritage Strategy was completed in 2005, and Phases 2 and 3 were completed in 2009 and 2010.

The Phase 1 and 2 reports include helpful background information and detail regarding much of the City’s Natural Heritage System. This information was used in the development of the policies found within the Official Plan, and should be reviewed as a background document when preparing environmental studies.

Phase 1

2 MBNatural Heritage Strategy Phase 1 Report4 MBNatural Heritage Strategy – Phase 1 Report Maps

Phase 2

28 MBNatural Heritage Strategy Phase 2 Report

Locally Significant Species information

Through the Natural Heritage Strategy the City developed a list of locally significant species. This list is at a County or regional level and includes both flora and fauna. It also summarizes species rank information from other jurisdictions such as the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO), and the Natural Heritage Information Center (NHIC) which is a part of the Ministry of Natural Resources.

This list is to be used for completing studies such as Subwatershed Studies and Environmental Impact Studies as part of the analysis regarding habitat protection for these species in the City of Guelph.

This list may be updated from time to time. Updates may include scientific analysis and peer review, as well as the consideration of information collected as part of completed environmental studies.
Please note that where information regarding species ranks is updated by other jurisdictions the most current ranking will be considered to apply.

1 MBSpecies List

Additional information related to the development of this list can be found within the Natural Heritage Strategy reports.

Background

On May 20, 2010, Official Plan Amendment 42 – Natural Heritage System, was considered at a public meeting of Council. Official Plan Amendment 42 (OPA 42) formed Phase 2 of the City’s official plan update (OPA 39 – Growth Plan Conformity was Phase 1). OPA 42 introduced policies for Guelph’s Natural Heritage System and establishes a sustainable natural heritage framework that protects, restores and enhances the city’s natural heritage features and areas.

At the meeting Council directed staff to bring forward the Natural Heritage System components of the Official Plan Amendment for Council’s consideration on July 27, 2010. On July 27, 2010 Council adopted OPA 42. The remainder of the Official Plan review went on to become Official Plan Amendment 48.

As Official Plan Amendment 42 concerns consistency with the Provincial Policy Statement, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is the approval authority. A decision was issued by the Ministry on February 22, 2011 and is available below as well as the Notice of Decision.

As Official Plan Amendment 42 concerns consistency with the Provincial Policy Statement, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is the approval authority. A decision was issued by the Ministry on February 22, 2011 and is available below as well as the Notice of Decision.

6.47 MBOPA 42 Council Report – July 2010  10.7 MBOfficial Plan Amendment 42 (as adopted by Council) 6 MBDecision from Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing  2 MBMMAH Approved Version of OPA 42 (consolidated to include Province’s decision) 

Draft Official Plan Update (OPA 42) April/May 2010

4 MBDraft Official Plan Text   481 kBDraft Schedule 1 – Growth Plan Elements  2 MBDraft Schedule 2  1 MBDraft Schedule 4  1.8 MBDraft Schedule 4A 1.4 MBDraft Schedule 4B 1.5 MBDraft Schedule 4C 1.6 MBDraft Schedule 4D 1.5 MBDraft Schedule 4E 2.6 MBMay 20, 2010 Council Report 757 kBMay 20, 2010 Council Presentation

Frequently asked questions

What is the Natural Heritage System?

The City’s Natural Heritage System (NHS) is comprised of a combination of natural heritage features and areas, including:

  • Significant Wetlands and Other Wetlands;
  • Significant Woodlands and Cultural Woodlands;
  • Significant Valleylands;
  • Significant Wildlife Habitats, including Ecological Linkages and Habitats for Significant Species;
  • Habitats of Endangered and Threatened Species;
  • Significant Landform;
  • Restoration Areas; and
  • Wildlife crossings.

Together, these elements represent the city’s biological, hydrological and geological diversity, support ecological and hydrologic functions, provide connectivity, support populations of indigenous species, and sustain local biodiversity.

How is the Natural Heritage System protected?

The Natural Heritage System policies contained within the City’s Official Plan establish minimum standards and provide direction for development applications within the city.  This includes direction on where and how development may or may not occur both within and adjacent to the Natural Heritage System depending on the natural heritage features and areas that are in a given area of the city.

What is the Official Plan?

The City of Guelph Official Plan is a statement of goals, objectives and policies, which are intended to promote public interest in the future development of the City. The Official Plan contains the general land use planning policies, address how growth is coordinated and will meets the community’s needs, identifies areas that are to be protected, helps with understanding how land may be used now and in the future, and also helps decide where roads, watermains, sewers, parks and other services will be built.

Are all parts of the Natural Heritage System mapped in the Official Plan?

The mapping of the Natural Heritage System in the Official Plan is based on the best available information at the time the natural heritage policies in the Official Plan were updated (2010).  It is important to understand that the City has not been comprehensively surveyed for all flora, fauna or their habitats. Natural systems are also dynamic and can change over time. As such, when new or updated information becomes available additional natural heritage features and areas may be identified. Newly identified natural heritage features and areas must meet the applicable definitions and criteria contained within the Official Plan. This is typically done through studies completed as part of a development process.  This may include Subwatershed Studies, Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Studies.

What is a Subwatershed Study?

A subwatershed study is a study completed for an area of land that drains into a single tributary of a river that is part of a larger watershed, and may also include additional areas depending on the purpose or scope of the study.

A subwatershed study can include an assessment of current conditions and recommendations to addressed planned or anticipated changes relating to:

  • Stormwater and floodplain management
  • Protection of the integrity of both hydrological and hydrogeological functions
  • Conservation of natural heritage features and areas (i.e. woodlands and wetlands)
  • Restoration of natural features and areas including linkages
  • Maintenance or enhancement of fish habitat
  • Land-use planning

Retention of significant natural heritage features and maintenance of the ecological processes of a subwatershed while planning for urbanizing land uses and landscape restoration, are typically the focus of the study.

Subwatershed studies may also include recommendations and targets to be addressed and incorporated into secondary plans and subsequent development applications as part of Environmental Impact Studies.

What is an Environmental Impact Study?

An Environmental Impact Study, or EIS, is a study typically completed as part of a site specific development application that looks at a development proposal that is within or adjacent to natural heritage features and areas that are part of the Natural Heritage System.  The EIS builds on existing information and requirements, like subwatershed studies or the City’s Natural Heritage Strategy.

How is the City protecting part of the Paris Galt Moraine?

The Natural Heritage System incorporates Significant Portions of the Paris Galt Moraine.  This captures parts of the Moraine that contribute to City’s geological diversity, provide connectivity and continuity to the City’s Natural Heritage System, support ground water features and hydrologic functions and biodiversity.  These areas are referred to as “Significant Landform” within the Natural Heritage System policies of the Official Plan.

Are meadows protected as part of the Natural Heritage System?

The City recognises the role of meadows and pollinator habitats, which support ecosystem functions and biodiversity.  Meadows may be protected as features that are part of the Natural Heritage System where they are determined to be Significant Wildlife Habitat or Habitat for Significant Species through environmental studies completed as part of a development application.  This can include Subwatershed Studies and Environmental Impact Studies.  Areas identified for restoration could also be restored or managed as meadows depending on the purpose and restoration and management goals for a Restoration Area.

How does the Natural Heritage System support and protect the Eramosa and Speed Rivers?

The valleylands associated with the Speed and Eramosa Rivers form the backbone of the City’s Natural Heritage System. They perform important ecological functions, and contain a diversity of habitats within the city. Valleylands and other river and stream corridors are also an essential element in protecting connectivity within the Natural Heritage System.  The City’s rivers are protected as part of the Natural Heritage System and form part of Significant Valleylands, and Surface Water and Fish Habitat features.

What are Significant Valleylands?

Valleylands capture natural spaces that occur in valleys or other landform depressions that have water flowing through or standing in them for some period of the year. This includes the valleys and rivers of Speed and Eramosa as well as many other streams and tributaries in the city that have been identified as being Significant. Significant Valleylands are protected as part of the Natural Heritage System through the Official Plan by:

  • Defining and identifying the Significant Valleylands;
  • Establishing restrictions for development within and adjacent to Significant Valleylands as well as within any established buffers recommended through Environmental Impact Studies; and
  • Supporting restoration and naturalization of Significant Valleylands in areas that have been disturbed.

What are Surface Water and Fish Habitat features?

Surface Water and Fish Habitat features include features such as rivers, streams, lakes and ponds within the city.  Surface Water and Fish Habitat features are protected as part of the Natural Heritage System through the Official Plan by:

  • Defining and identifying known surface water and fish habitat features;
  • Establishing minimum buffer requirements from the bankfull  channel of these features for new development;
  • Restricting development within surface water and fish habitat features as well as the minimum buffers;
  • Supporting opportunities to restore permanent and intermittent streams and fish habitat; and
  • Investigating the removal or modification of structural barriers to fish passage in the Speed and Eramosa Rivers and their tributaries in order to permit natural stream processes, improve fish habitat and the restoration of natural stream morphology.

Does the Natural Heritage System protect the Urban Forest?

The City’s Natural Heritage System policies recognise the role of our Urban Forest within City.  The Urban Forest includes individual and groups of trees, hedgerows, smaller wooded areas and plantations that are otherwise not part of the natural heritage features and areas that make up the Natural Heritage System.  The Urban Forest policies within the Official Plan also are intended to support the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan.

What is a Restoration Area?

Restoration areas include stormwater management facilities, areas within City parklands not intended for active uses, as well as isolated gaps within the Natural Heritage System where there may be potential for ecological restoration to be directed.

How can I help support the Natural Heritage System?

There are many great opportunities within the City to partake in hikes, walks and activities to learn more about the natural environment.

Learn about the City’s two citizen advisory committees involved with the Natural Heritage System. These include, the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC), which is a citizen technical advisory group appointed by Council to provide advice to City staff. The Environmental Advisory Committee reviews environmental documents that are submitted as part of a development application.

The River System Advisory Committee (RSAC) is a volunteer council appointed committee that provides advice and assistance to City Staff and Council on issues that impact on waterways and adjacent lands within the City of Guelph.