Before January 1, 2001, the name "City of Hamilton" referred to the urban area at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. Following municipal restructuring, the city limits were expanded to include the former rural and semi-rural municipalities of Ancaster, Flamborough, Dundas, Stoney Creek and Glanbrook. The amalgamated City of Hamilton has an area of 112,781 ha.
The Niagara Escarpment crosses the municipality parallel to the Lake Ontario shoreline. Much of the northwest portion of the City (formerly the Township of Flamborough) is still well wooded and the landscape is dominated by many large, provincially significant swamp wetland complexes receiving Level 1 protection (Figure 2). The densely forested Dundas Valley, extending due west of the built-up part of Hamilton, is also highly significant from an environmental point of view.
The large number of provincially significant wetlands in the northwest of the City and the woodlots on the Niagara Escarpment give Level 1 protection to 6.5% of the land. Other Escarpment policies and urban parks provide Level 2 protection for about 13.6% of the land base. Only a small percentage of the land base (2.05%) constitutes scattered Greenlands (mostly small wooded areas) with no protection.
The City of Hamilton recently completed an extensive Natural Areas Inventory (Heagy et al., 1995) that has identified literally hundreds of Environmentally Significant Areas deemed worthy of recognition and protection. The City is currently carrying out an update of its Official Plan and it is anticipated that these areas will be identified as Environmentally Significant Areas and afforded some degree of environmental protection (level not known at this time) under the new plan. At present, however, these areas are given Level 2 protection (Table 1).