Land Use Planning, Regulations & Permits
Land use planning and regulations consider and manage the natural environment within the process of land use planning and development. Many of the UTRCA’s activities fall within this category:
• reviewing and commenting on the environmental implications of land use planning applications such as severances, subdivisions and rezonings
• reviewing and approving applications made under the Fill, Construction and Alteration to Waterways Regulation and other related regulations
• creating, reviewing and cataloguing mapping, environmental inventories and assessments
• serving as an information centre for inquiries from landowners, potential landowners, lawyers, municipalities, and community groups interested in environmental legislation, approvals and stewardship
The CA addresses four general areas or components within land use planning:
• Natural heritage
• Natural hazards
• Natural resources
• Environmental servicing
These areas are interconnected within the broader field of watershed ecosystem planning. This reflects the complexities among and within ecosystems. All the individual components and their interconnections must be understood in order to effectively manage the whole system, as well as individual parts or segments.
Natural heritage focuses on natural features and their functions, as opposed to the human history and built structures that make up our cultural heritage. Natural heritage includes:
• geologic features and landforms;
• associated terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems;
• plant species, populations and communities; and
• all native animal species, their habitats and sustaining environments.
Woodlots, wetlands, Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSIs), and valley lands are all natural heritage features. These features also possess functions which may link them together within the ecosystem, so that alterations to one feature may affect another.
Natural hazards are caused by the natural processes around us. These processes pose risks and problems to society when we do not fully understand them or deal with them effectively in our development activities.
Flooding, erosion, and unstable slopes are common hazard issues addressed through the UTRCA’s environmental planning activities.
In the context of land use planning, natural resources include the agricultural landbase, surface and ground water, and aggregate resources. Managing these natural resources wisely is an important part of environmental planning, ensuring that ecosystem and watershed health is maintained.
Agriculture is the primary land use in rural Southwestern Ontario. For this reason, soil stewardship and conservation have a key role in protecting and enhancing the watershed ecosystems.
Surface and groundwater are also important natural resources within the watershed ecosystem. Drainage related issues, which were the primary reason for the formation of Conservation Authorities, include river water conservation, flooding, river flow augmentation, and recreational use. Municipal drains constructed under the Municipal Drainage Act are common in this part of southwestern Ontario and have altered the natural hydrologic cycle.
Aggregate resources (e.g. sand and gravel deposits) are also significant natural resources and play an important role in supporting the economic development of this area.
Environmental servicing focuses on measures taken to manage or limit the potential negative impact of development on the watershed. Any development commonly includes site alterations and drainage changes that temporarily or permanently alter the land surface and affect the hydrologic cycle. All these activities can have serious negative impacts on the watershed ecosystem.
Environmental servicing includes issues such as stormwater management and erosion and sediment control.
Watershed planning is the most effective and comprehensive systems-based approach being used for ecosystem planning. To promote watershed health, UTRCA initiatives based on watersheds and subwatersheds consider factors beyond the traditional regulatory responsibility of flood control, pollution and conservation of land. As provincial policies recognize, this is the most effective way of developing management strategies and practices for water-related resources.
Watershed planning helps ensure that the implications of local planning decisions are assessed throughout the watershed and that environmental problems are avoided. It is also an effective way to integrate the requirements of land use policies, particularly those which are water related, in the Provincial Policy Statement.