Natural Heritage Planning involves developing strategies and programs for protecting, enhancing, and monitoring Hamilton's natural areas and their ecological functions. Protection and enhancement are achieved through Official Plan policy, watershed and subwatershed plans, Secondary Plans, tree cutting and fill and grading by-laws, and development review. The Natural Heritage Planner works with local partners, such as:
Heritage Planning works with these local partners to conduct field studies on natural areas and maintain databases and mapping resources. This data is used in establishing boundaries for Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs), development review, long range planning, and monitoring the condition of natural areas in Hamilton.
Natural areas in the City of Hamilton are protected locally through policies for Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) and the Regional Natural Heritage System (NHS).
ESAs are natural areas that have been identified as unique because they serve important ecological functions, contain rare plant or animal species, contain rare or unique topography or geologic features, or have been designated as an Area of Natural or Scientific Interest or a Provincially Significant Wetland. There are currently 81 ESAs in Hamilton, which range from wetlands and swamps to prairie, alvar, and escarpment habitat. Proposed land use changes in or adjacent to ESAs are referred to the Environmentally Significant Areas Impact Evaluation Group (ESAIEG) for review. ESAIG is a voluntary group of local people with technical expertise that advises Community Planning staff on the impacts of land use changes in or adjacent to ESAs and provide recommendations based on the review of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The Natural Heritage System (NHS) developed by the former Region of Hamilton-Wentworth serves as a framework for conservation planning and management in Hamilton. The purpose of the NHS is to identify and conserve a system of interconnected, protected natural areas so that ecological functions (for example, improving air and water quality, controlling erosion and flooding, and providing habitat for plants and animals) are maintained and enhanced.
Maps of the ESAs in the City, and the Regional Greenlands Preliminary Concept Map (Map #4, and Appendix #3, respectively), are available as part of the Regional Official Plan, which can be viewed in person at the offices of the Planning and Economic Development Department.