Natural Environment

The Region of Waterloo is protecting our natural environment for future generations. 

 The Greenlands Network

 The Greenlands Network is made up of natural environmental features and the areas between them:
  • Landscape features, including four Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes, the Regional (groundwater) Recharge Area, and the Grand River valleys and major tributaries
  • Environmental features like Environmentally Sensitive Policy Areas (ESPAs), provincially significant wetlands, endangered and threatened species' habitats and significant woodlands
  • Supporting features like corridors and linkages between environmental features

This network helps maintain the environmental health and ecological integrity of Waterloo Region and the Grand River watershed.

Check out the map to view the Greenlands Network.

The Greenlands Network Implementation Guideline

The Greenlands Network Implementation Guideline provides detailed guidance for applying environmental policies in the Region Official Plan including:

  • The preparation of Environmental Impact Statements
  • Interpreting the boundaries of core environmental features
  • Determining the location and design of ecological buffers and linkages
  • Defining relevant terms in more detail

 Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes

Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes (ESLs) are large areas in Waterloo Region that contain many natural features such as:
  • Wetlands
  • Woodlands
  • Rivers and creeks
  • Groundwater recharge areas
  • Habitats for rare, threatened and endangered species

They also include farms, small settlements, and parks.

The Region has developed policies to protect over 15,000 hectares of land within the four ESLs to make sure that new development in these areas won't damage the natural environment or detract from their unique rural character.

Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes in Waterloo Region

  • Laurel Creek Headwaters
  • Blair-Bechtel-Cruickston
  • Beverly
  • Dumfries Carolinian

Check out the map to view the location of the ESLs.


Getting involved

The Region's policies are making it easier for landowners, volunteers, community organizations and municipalities to be stewards of land within the Greenlands Network.

With help from the community, stewardship plans will be developed for each ESL. The Laurel Creek Headwaters ESL Public Liaison Committee is made up of private landowners and other community members with interest and expertise in land stewardship. This committee serves as a model for future ESL committees by:

  • Developing tools to enhance natural features and connections
  • Promoting responsible land stewardship
  • Assessing potential impacts of land-use activities
  • Exploring options to acquire conservation lands
  • Addressing concerns of residents and property owners within the ESL

The Laurel Creek Headwaters Environmentally Sensitive Landscape Case Study

The Region completed a case study in 2016 to look at how best to balance transportation needs and environmental considerations in the Laurel Creek Headwaters ESL.

For the full report, please contact environmental planning and sustainability staff.

Environmentally Sensitive Policy Areas

Since 1976, the Region has designated over 90 Environmentally Sensitive Policy Areas (ESPAs). These are regionally significant natural areas of the highest quality because they typically include multiple types of natural habitat and rare species of native flora and fauna, and they perform important ecological functions. The designation restricts development within or near the feature.



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