Like Waterloo, the County of Wellington is a predominantly rural municipality, with agriculture the principal land use. From an agricultural perspective, much of Wellington is covered by Class 1 and 2 soils, whichare highly productive. The area is underlain by several extensive and high yielding aquifers. This combination of rich agricultural land and high-quality groundwater resources has contributed to a long history of rural occupation, with only limited and very localized development pressure being exerted outside of Guelph and the Highway 6/401 corridors.
The City of Guelph is the largest urban area, with Fergus, Elora, and Erin acting as smaller settlement areas. Several major river systems pass through Wellington, all tributaries of the Grand River. These include the Speed and Eramosa Rivers, as well as Hanlon Creek and Blue Springs Creek. These river valleys are identified in the County of Wellington (1998) Official Plan as core Greenland areas and act as significant environmental constraints (Table 9).
The Grand River Conservation Authority has identified a number of Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) in Wellington. The County also contains several large Provincially Significant wetlands and many woodlots greater than 10 ha in size, which are given Level 1 and Level 2 protection, respectively, under the County's Official Plan (Figure 10). Only 2.6% of the County is occupied by Greenlands features that have either partial (Level 3) or no (Level 4) protection. Among the upper-tier municipalities, Wellington County has one of the longest-standing and most proactive approaches to Greenlands identification and protection anywhere in Ontario.
Table 9: Levels of Greenlands Protection for the County of Wellington
Figure 10: County of Wellington