Natural Heritage Features Mapping: Challenges and Best Practice


pdf-icon.pngNatural Heritage Features Mapping: Challenges and Best Practices (480KB)

The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation completed a study to understand the process by which natural heritage features (NHF) are mapped and communicated to the public by municipalities in Ontario. This was in response to issues raised by Greenbelt stakeholders, mainly within the agricultural sector, who are affected by inaccuracies in Official Plan mapping schedules for natural heritage features. 

Natural Heritage Features Mapping: Challenges and Best Practices identifies issues, challenges, good practice and recommendations to improve the process by which NHF are mapped and communicated to the public. The report documents the complexity of NHF mapping and shows there are a number of challenges with data collection, mapping, and documenting NHF. 

Issues include, but not limited to:

  • Data Accuracy, Integrity and Availability: lack of standardization of data, inconsistent language, data misalignment between mapping agencies, inaccuracies in older mapping products, and data gaps. 
  • Maintaining Up-to-Date Information: features are dynamic, meaning it is challenging to make updates on an ongoing basis that also incorporates landowner and public 5 consultation. This is compounded by an inefficient system for two-way flow of information between the province and municipalities.

Recommendation include:

  • Standardizing language and data collection methodologies
  • Ensuring use of appropriate technology and expertise
  • Better coordination between mapping agencies
  • Providing municipalities and conservation authorities with additional resources (funding and guidance)
  • Providing an improved process for involving the public in NHF mapping)
  • Establishing simple processes for correcting maps


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