Understanding Natural Heritage

In the Otonabee Conservation watershed we are fortunate to be stewards of large areas of natural cover including wetlands, forests and surface water systems including the Kawartha Lakes and watercourses such as Cavan and Jackson Creeks.  All of the natural heritage features in the Otonabee Region watershed work together to provide “ecosystem services” that support life and the health of people, plants and wildlife.  Some of the ecosystem services provided by our wetlands, forests, and watercourses include filtering our air and water, reducing flooding, providing recreational opportunities, preventing soil erosion, and providing habitat for wildlife species.

Over the past few decades, there has been growing recognition that individual natural features and areas need to be connected to be a functioning ecosystem. Natural heritage systems are made up of core conservation lands and waters linked by natural corridors and restored connections.  They are identified as landscape networks for the conservation of biological diversity, natural processes and viable populations of native species and ecosystems.

Throughout Otonabee Conservation’s land use planning process, the protection of natural heritage features is a key focus. Land use planning strives to identify important natural features and plan around them.  Our goal is to balance the need for development with the need to maintain a healthy, functioning ecosystem.

Natural heritage features that are afforded protection in provincial land use policies include: significant wetlands, fish habitat, significant woodlands, significant valleylands, significant habitat of endangered species and threatened species, significant wildlife habitat, and areas of natural and scientific interest.

During the planning process, the delineation and establishment of protection or mitigation measures for natural heritage features may be required. Studies to gather details and determine appropriate protective measures should be completed in accordance with the provincial Natural Heritage Reference Manual.