What is the Perth Natural Heritage Systems Study (PNHSS)?
The Perth Natural Heritage Systems Study (PNHSS) is a terrestrial science based study that provides a landscape level assessment of natural heritage features and functions including areas of natural and scientific interest; wetlands; woodlands; valleylands, and natural heritage systems (excluding fish habitat and other aquatic habitat features).
Why is Perth County doing a Natural Heritage Study when the Official Plan already has Natural Heritage Policies?
The Perth County Official Plan was created in the late 1990s. The Natural Heritage approaches in the current Official Plan protected individual Natural Heritage features, independent of each other and that approach has now changed. With the development of a new Official Plan, modern approaches outlined in the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), 2014 must be integrated into the new Official Plan. One of the modern approaches, related to Natural Heritage, introduces the concept that Natural Heritage Systems must be protected rather than individual Natural Heritage features.
The PNHSS was developed to map and evaluate the existing Natural Heritage features and produce a Natural Heritage system perspective for Perth County. The study provides a snapshot of the Natural Heritage system at a given time and will allow for change to be calculated when new aerial photography becomes available.
What was the study’s approach?
The PNHSS establishes the local approach for identifying the terrestrial Natural Heritage System, as required by the natural heritage policies of the Provincial Policy Statement (PSS). The Provincial Policy Statement is a document that provides policy direction for Municipalities on matters of provincial interest related to land use planning and development.The PNHSS establishes an approach for identifying Natural Heritage Features and Areas as required for Council moving forward. The complete list of Natural Heritage Features and Areas are set out in Section 2.1 of the PPS.
How were the natural heritage features and areas identified?
Vegetation communities (0.5 ha or larger) were identified by interpreting 2010 digital aerial photography. The vegetation mapping was later updated with the 2015 photography. The vegetation communities were then merged into vegetation groups and vegetation patches.
A set of Ecologically Important criteria were developed that assess the importance of the vegetation groups and patches based on size, proximity, diversity and other measures. A GIS computer model was used to apply the criteria to the vegetation groups and patches. Vegetation groups and patches that meet one or more criteria are considered to be Ecologically Important at the County level.Some natural heritage features identified as Ecologically Important, also meet the definition of significant as per the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS).
What natural heritage features and areas are included?
• Natural Heritage Features and Areas (e.g., Provincially Significant Wetlands, Significant Woodlands, and Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest), and significant woodlands and valleylands
• Ecologically important and locally significant woodlands, wetlands, thickets, young plantations, meadows, local Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest, and other connecting features
How do I get involved?
We welcome your input. The more public comments we receive, leads us to create a better final Official Plan that reflects Perth County’s values.
We have already held four Public Open Houses to seek ratepayer input regarding the vision and a tone, and confirm the underlying community values for guiding land use policy development for the New Official Plan.On August 1, 2019 the County of Perth Council received multiple background studies to support the development of the New Official Plan.
What is the difference between Natural Heritage, Natural Heritage Systems, and Cultural Heritage?
Natural heritage refers to natural environment features and areas such as ecologically important wetlands, wildlife habitats and Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest. Natural Heritage features and areas inherently serve environmental functions.
Natural heritage systems:
Natural heritage systems means a grouping of natural heritage features and areas, linked by natural corridors which are necessary to maintain biological diversity, natural functions, viable populations of indigenous species and ecosystems.
Cultural heritage primarily focuses on the protection of constructed, built features, and archaeological areas possessing value to a community (i.e., historical settlement areas). The PNHSS or natural heritage policies do not concern themselves with cultural heritage features or systems.
What are the timelines?
We expect that the Natural Heritage policies will be considered by County Council shortly after the two Natural Heritage Open Houses and a set of draft policies will be finalized for inclusion in the first Draft of the new Official Plan. A further round of 4 Open Houses will be set-up to review the first Draft of the Official Plan Document in the Fall of 2019.
When County Council is satisfied with a final draft new Official Plan a formal Public Meeting will be set. We expect that will be in the Spring of 2020.