About the plan
The Natural Heritage Action Plan (NHAP) will help us prioritize Guelph’s natural heritage goals and create an implementation plan for protecting our natural resources as part of complete healthy communities. The plan will create a framework for the City’s Official Plan policies specific to the natural heritage system and watershed planning.
The NHAP will include the identification and development of recommendations, studies and guidelines to maintain enhance and restore natural heritage, surface water and ground water features in Guelph. This work will also identify and inform continuous improvement opportunities for development reviews that deal with environmental planning requirements.
What is natural heritage?
Natural heritage refers to the many elements of biodiversity, including plants, animals, ecosystem types, and geological structures and formations. As part of natural heritage we aim to take the natural elements which we inherited from past generations, maintain them in good health today and bestow them to future generations.
We have been working on the NHAP since it’s initiation in March of 2017. Through a scan of Official Plan policies and background documents ‘themes’ were developed to help organize and categorize actions.
Over the summer of 2017, we undertook a digital survey to get feedback from the community. We gained information about favourite natural spaces, which themes are most important for the action plan and what level of awareness the community holds as it relates to our existing policy framework.
In the fall, we toured members of Council around the City to showcase some of the challenges and opportunities that exist when looking at implementing the existing policy framework to get their input and ideas to help feed into the development of actions.
Over the past 8 months, several theme meetings were held with various City departments to gain an understanding on challenges and opportunities, and to help generate ideas around what actions could assist with implementation of existing policies internally.
We have refined the NHAP to include 12 themes:
- Supporting sustainable development and urban ecosystems
- Restoring Urban Ecosystems to Support Biodiversity and Resilience
- Supporting Growth through Watershed Planning
- Environmental Monitoring to Support Science-Based Decision Making
- Understanding and Enhancing our Biodiversity
- Conservation Land Securement to Support Long-Term Preservation
- Plant and Wildlife Habitat Management in the Urban Setting
- Education, Outreach and Stewardship
- Engagement models for supporting implementation
- Streamlining Processes through Technical Manuals, Guidelines and Standards
- Improving Operational Procedures
- Data Management and Technology to Improve Efficiencies and Share Knowledge
On January 16 and 18, 2018, we held 3 workshops for the public which included the same ideas for actions within these 12 themes. The presentation used at the workshop is available here:2 MBDraft actions workshop presentation
The NHAP was presented at the March 6, 2017 Committee of a Whole and approved by City Council at the March 27, 2017. A copy of the staff report and project charter can be found below.
The Natural Heritage Action Plan includes the following topics:
- Watershed planning involves creating goals, objectives and direction for the protection of water resources and the management of human activities, land, water, aquatic life and resources within a watershed. Watershed planning helps us assess the many different impacts on our watersheds and set targets for land protection and restoration.
- Environmental monitoring means to observe and evaluate the effectiveness of the City’s Natural Heritage policies, decisions and programs. An example of environmental monitoring is measuring the type and number of species in our natural areas, so that we know where there are rare species in the City and how they are changing over time.
- Land securement means exploring opportunities to protect lands within the natural heritage system through partnerships with non-profit or other environmental groups, City ownership, legal tools like easements in favor of conservation and other similar tools.
- Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth, including plants and animals, and their many complex connections.
- Plant and wildlife management means establishing goals and objectives to determine how animals and plants are looked after and overseen, recognising the challenges in living with wildlife in an urban area.
- River systems means the areas and functions that make up the two major rivers that run through Guelph, the Speed and Eramosa Rivers.
- Restoration is the process of assisting with the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed (definition from the Society for Ecological Restoration).
- Technical manuals and guidelines are documents that help people understand the requirements needed to complete studies for projects that have an impact on the environment and how to implement practices to avoid or address these impacts.
- Data management and sharing is creating protocols and tools for the City to receive, collect, store, use and share information about biodiversity and the river systems.
- Education and outreach are important to help people understand the importance of our natural heritage and water resources, and build awareness so that the community fosters an ethic of stewardship which means to use natural resources in a responsible and sustainable way with consideration for other species and future generations.