Waterloo Region has an area of 138,420 ha, and the highest percentage of cleared land in the study area - 82.4%. It is a predominantly rural municipality, with agriculture the principal land use. From an agricultural perspective, high-quality Class 1 and 2 soils cover much of the Region. The central and southeast portions are occupied by the large urban centres of Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge, respectively. The Region is roughly bisected from northwest to southeast by the Grand River (Figure 9).
In its Official Plan, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo (1998) has identified a system of Environmentally Sensitive Policy Area (ESPAs) that include the following: PSWs, ANSIs, Environmentally Significant Areas as identified by the Grand River Conservation Authority, significant woodlands, significant valleylands, and significant wildlife habitat (Table 8). These are all environmental constraint areas. Wetlands are generally associated with the major tributaries of the Grand River and are concentrated in the southeast and west-central portions of the Region (Figure 9). Given the agricultural nature of the area, much of the native forest cover has been removed; however, Waterloo farmers tend to practice good forest management and have maintained rear lot forest blocks throughout. However, most of these woodlands are given no protection (Level 4) within the Region's Official Plan. This is particularly true in the Townships of Woolwich, Wilmot and North Dumfries, situated to the west and north of the urban centre of Kitchener-Waterloo.
The Region has only 3.5% of its land base protected at Level 1 - mostly provincially significant wetlands associated with the Grand River and several of its major tributaries.