Provincially Significant Wetland (PSW)
For the purposes of the Provincial Policy Statement, a wetland is defined as "land that is seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water, as well as lands where the water table is close to or at the surface. In either case the presence of abundant water has caused the formation of hydric soils and has favoured the dominance of hydric plants or water tolerant plants." The four types of wetlands are swamps, marshes, bogs and fens. A significant wetland is one that is identified as provincially significant by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Specifically, a Provincially Significant Wetland (PSW) is any wetland that: 1) achieves a total score of 600 or more points, or 2) achieves a score of 200 or more points in either the Biological component or the Special Features component in the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES). A wetland is also considered a PSW if it has previously been evaluated under the first and second edition of the OWES as Class 1, 2, or 3 (out of 7 possible classes). On the Oak Ridges Moraine, significant wetlands are defined as any wetlands greater than 0.5 ha, regardless of whether or not they have been evaluated.
Locally Significant Wetland
A wetland that is evaluated under the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, but is not considered provincially significant (i.e., scores lower than indicated above) may be designated as a locally significant wetland by a planning authority (i. e., municipality).
A wetland that has not been evaluated using the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System.
Critical Portions of Habitat of Endangered and Threatened Species
An endangered species, as defined by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, is any native species that, on the basis of the best available scientific evidence, is at risk of extinction or extirpation throughout all or a significant portion of its Ontario range if the limiting factors are not reversed. A threatened species is any native species that, on the basis of the best available scientific evidence, is at risk of becoming endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its Ontario range if the limiting factors are not reversed. The critical portion of the habitat of one of these species refers to the habitat that is necessary for the survival of populations of endangered and threatened species. This is determined on a case by case basis.
The spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply, and migration areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes.
Woodlands are treed areas that provide environmental and economic benefits such as erosion prevention, water retention, provision of habitat, recreation and the sustainable harvest of woodland products. Significance is based on meeting suggested standards for one or more of the following factors: woodland size, ecological functions (shape, proximity, linkages, diversity), is uncommon in the landscape (age, composition, cover type, quality, age structure), or economic and social values. Note that for woodlands within the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan area, precise definitions of Significant Woodlands have been developed by the OMNR (i.e., all woodlands greater than 0.5 ha in Natural Core and Natural Linkage Areas and all woodlands greater than 4.0 ha located in Countryside or Settlement Areas). Outside the Oak Ridges Moraine, responsibility for the identification of Significant Woodlands rests with the planning authority (i.e., municipality). Very few municipalities in Central Ontario have identified Significant Woodlands at a local or regional level.
Valleylands are natural areas that occur in a valley or other landform depression that have water flowing through or standing for some period of the year. The identification of significant valleylands is the responsibility of the planning authority; in most municipalities/regions this has not occurred. Note that for valleylands within the Oak Ridges Moraine Planning Area more precise definitions have been developed. Outside the Oak Ridges Moraine, responsibility for the identification of Significant Valleylands rests with the planning authority (i.e., municipality).
Significant Wildlife Habitat
Wildlife habitat is identified as "areas where plants, animals, and other organisms live, and find adequate amounts of food, water, shelter, and space needed to sustain their populations." Specific wildlife habitats of significance may include areas where species concentrate at a vulnerable point in their annual cycle; and areas that are important to migratory and non-migratory species. It is considered significant where it is ecologically important in terms of features, functions, representation or amount, and contributing to the quality and diversity of an identifiable geographic area or Natural Heritage System. Criteria for determining significance may be recommended by the Province, but municipal approaches that achieve the same objective may also be used. As is the case with Significant Woodlands and Significant Valleylands, a planning authority (i.e., municipality) is responsible for identifying Significant Wildlife Habitat, although to our knowledge this has not yet been done anywhere in South-Central Ontario.
Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI)
Areas of land and water containing natural landscapes or features that have been identified (by the Ministry of Natural Resources) as having life science or earth science values related to protection, scientific study, or education. ANSIs are either Life Science or Earth Science.
Provincially Significant ANSI
A provincially significant ANSI is one that is identified as provincially significant by the Ministry of Natural Resources using evaluation procedures as established by the province.
Regionally Significant ANSI
A regionally significant ANSI is any ANSI that is not identified as provincially significant by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Environmentally Significant Area or Environmentally Sensitive Area (both referred to as ESA)
A natural area identified by a municipality or Conservation Authority as fulfilling certain criteria for ecological significance or sensitivity. ESAs, regardless of type, tend to be treated in much the same manner from a policy perspective. In some cases, municipal Official Plans will assign policy protection to ESAs.
Areas in southern Ontario owned and managed by Conservation Authorities. These areas are open to the public and are maintained for recreation, natural heritage preservation and water control purposes.
Within the Niagara Escarpment Plan area, Escarpment Natural Area is the most protected of seven land use designations, each of which has its own objectives, criteria for designation and permitted uses. The objectives of Escarpment Natural Area are to: maintain the most natural Escarpment features, stream valleys, wetlands and related significant natural areas and associated cultural heritage features; to encourage compatible recreation, conservation and educational activities; and to maintain and enhance the landscape quality of Escarpment features.
Provincial Parks are areas of land and water managed for the benefit of present and future generations and dedicated to the people of Ontario and others who may use them for their healthful enjoyment and appreciation. The overall goal of the Provincial Park system is to provide a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, and to protect provincially significant natural, cultural and recreational environments, in a system of Provincial Parks.