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blueindicatorProtection of Natural Areas


What Is The Indicator And Why Measure It?

This indicator measures the area (square kilometres) of land with Regional environmental protection designations, namely:

These designations are a result of the planning and environmental stewardship efforts of Regional staff in collaboration with other stakeholders such as area municipalities, the Grand River Conservation Authority, private landowners and the citizen- based Ecological and Environmental Advisory Committee that help preserve local natural areas and Regional biodiversity. In the process, these land designations also benefit water and air quality and contribute to the character and quality of life of the region. This indicator represents an important environmental protection function of the Region's Planning department that is interconnected to the Greenlands Strategy and Regional Official Plan.

Regional natural areas

Data for this indicator is not used for annual reporting or comparison as there may be significant periods of time before any changes are observed.

Since 1976:

    • 77 ESPA's have been designated in the Regional Official Plan (ROP) to protect over 17,000 acres of land.
    • Additional ESPA's are proposed as the Planning department compiles and analyzes the necessary information to afford the protective designation.

In 2005 to 2007:

    • The Region and Ontario Municipal Board has amended the ROP to protect approximately 8500 acres of land in the two new ESL designations.
    • Council approval of the Regional Forest Management Plan in 2006.
    • Policies are being developed to constrain the level of development in the Moraines area. Data was recently assessed in August 2008 representing the most current information (see graph below).

Land Natural Areas


    • A major forest management project was undertaken in the Doon Regional Forest in collaboration with the Waterloo Stewardship Network to address the overdue thinning of conifer plantations and to remove the invasive Buckthorn.
    • Also, the Operating Management Plans for Macton, Townline and Hilborn Regional Forest were reviewed by the Ecological and Environmental Advisory Committee and approved by Council. 
    • This work is in addition to the ongoing maintenance of regional forests which entails the removal of hazardous trees and routine trail maintenance.


Plans for 16 Regionally Owned Forests

Among the properties owned and managed by the Region are sixteen woodlands totalling approximately 435 hectares (1075 acres) which are covered by the Regional Forest Management Plan. They vary in size from 4.6 to 88.6 hectares, and thirteen are open to the public. Ongoing maintenance of regional forests includes removal of hazardous trees and routine trail maintenance. Of the 16 woodlands, it consists of the following:

    • 11 Regional forests acquired between 1944 and 2003 by purchase or donation
    • 3 landfill woodlands in Waterloo, Cambridge and Kitchener
    • 1 behind Regional Operations Centre
    • 1 behind Doon Heritage Crossroads.

Traditionally, forests have been seen as producing economically valued materials such as timber, maple syrup, and game. Such products lend themselves readily to measurement and quantification. Today, however, within urban and urbanizing areas such as the Region of Waterloo, forests are valued more in terms of the non-consumptive services and values they provide to society, which include:

    • Opportunities for passive recreation (i.e. walking, bird-watching, bicycling);
    • Enhancement of property values;
    • Aesthetically pleasing landscapes;
    • Moderation of urban "heat island effects" through shading and cooling; and
    • Improvement of urban air quality by trapping pollutants and the release of oxygen.

Even less tangible products and services of forests are the ecological processes and conditions such as groundwater recharge and natural areas of plant and animal habitat which provide indirect benefits such as clean drinking water and homes for native plants and animals that are unable to exist in close proximity to human development. Many of the forest tracts in Waterloo Region have been designated Environmentally Sensitive Policy Areas (ESPAs) which places a priority on ensuring the continuing health and ecosystem function of the forest.

Since Council approval of the Regional Forest Management Plan in 2006, detailed Operating Management Plans for Regional Forests and other Regionally-owned woodlands have been prepared, approved by Council. The goal of this plan is to maintain the ecological health and integrity of the Regionally owned forests and woodlands, and to ensure they continue to provide a natural resource for the enjoyment of Region residents and visitors.

Since implementing the plan in 2006, the Region has:

    • Restored parts of Hilborn Regional Forest in Cambridge to an oak savanna condition; Management and Operating Plan for Hilborn Regional Forest
    • Completed an improvement and thinning harvest at the Mannheim Water Treatment Plant Woodland; Management and Operating Plan for Mannheim Woodland
    • Started the development of five-year management plans for Doon Regional Forest in Kitchener and the Regional Landfill Woodland in Waterloo.

Read more about the Regional Forest Management Plan, 2007 – 2026.

Waterloo Regional Forest Properties Property Name Township/City Area

Cambridge Landfill - Cambridge
Dean's Lake - North Dumfries
Doon - Kitchener
Doon Heritage Crossroads - Kitchener
Drynan - North Dumfries
Gibney - Wilmot
Hilborn Knoll Cambridge
Macton - Wellesley
McLennan Park (Former Kitchener Landfill) - Kitchener
Operations Centre - Cambridge
Petersburg - Wilmot
Sandy Hills - Woolwich
Sudden - North Dumfries
Townline - Wilmot
Walker Woods - Wilmot
Waterloo Landfill - Waterloo

Click here for Map of Regional Forests.


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greenindicator Strong progress achieved
yellowindicator Moderate progress achieved
redindicator Progress needed
blueindicator Information only
greyindicator Indirectly related