Natural Heritage

The Conservation Halton watershed has many natural spaces that support a rich diversity of natural features that include plants and animals, wetlands, streams, forests, significant geological formations and habitats, and important corridors for wildlife. 

  • Many of our natural areas are considered environmentally sensitive areas and contain rare plant and animal species; 
  • Much of our natural areas are under private ownership and therefore private stewardship of these areas is essential for their preservation and continued existence on the landscape for the enjoyment of future generations;
  • Other natural areas such as the Conservation Halton parks are under public ownership and provide unique outdoor experiences for adventure, exploring, learning, and family fun, including hiking, biking, canoeing, and other outdoor recreation and leisure activities; 
  • We are fortunate to have some globally unique features in our watershed including the Niagara Escarpment, the Lake Ontario shoreline, and the glacial Lake Iroquois shoreline.

Some Benefits of Our Natural Systems

Green spaces

  • Create attractive, liveable communities by providing relaxing, walkable, and aesthetically pleasing neighbourhoods; help us to adapt to impacts of climate change; help prevent flooding and erosion; provide habitat for wildlife and birds; reconnect us with Nature. 

Wetlands

  • Improve water quality; regulate water flow for drought and flood management; provide wildlife habitat; provide carbon storage; contribute to climate change adaptation; provide opportunities for recreational fishing and hunting.

Forests

  • Improve air quality; absorb carbon emissions; filter air pollution; improve water quality and soil; provide important wildlife and bird habitat; provide sources of materials for building and manufacturing; provide shade and block winds.

The Great Lakes 

  • Provide for transportation routes, recreation opportunities, and the manufacture of goods and services, contributing billions of dollars to Ontario’s economy; are a source of drinking water for eight million people; provide raw power and cooling water for the province’s energy supply.

Challenges

There are significant challenges to overcome and adapt to as we work to protect our natural spaces and ensure that the ecological needs of the environment are met. As we manage these spaces, we have to consider the needs of business and citizens while grappling with stressors that include:

  • Climate change;
  • Intensified urbanization and growth;
  • Pollution;
  • The introduction of non-native invasive species.

Impacts on our natural spaces are often transferred and connected to impacts downstream and cross municipal and other administrative borders. Therefore, managing and protecting natural spaces within traditional boundaries is not the best environmental management strategy. Conservation Authorities are the only environmental management agencies in Ontario that are organized on a watershed basis. This management structure positions conservation authorities well to work in partnership with the province, municipalities, and other stakeholders whose interests lie within these environmentally connected areas called watersheds.

What We Do

Conservation Halton works with municipal, provincial, and federal governments, as well as landowners and other groups, to deliver sound, practical community-based solutions to a range of natural resource challenges. In support of the mission to protect the natural environment, Conservation Halton’s vision is to sustain a healthy watershed with clean streams, diverse forests, abundant green space, and balanced growth that results in strong livable communities. Conservation Halton programs and activities are founded on some basic philosophies:

  • Healthy natural areas are critical for preserving and building local environmental resilience, and help us to adapt to climate change;
  • Conservation areas and education programs provide healthy outdoor activities and help people to learn about the importance of environment to their own health;
  • Watershed management programs provide tangible and measurable social, economic, and environmental benefits.

Much of Conservation Halton’s efforts on protecting the natural environment include:

  • Using an approach called integrated watershed management to protect watershed health and contribute to the quality of life in communities throughout the watershed;
  • Water management programs that involve flood protection in high-flow periods, or low-flow augmentation in creeks during dry periods, as well as flood warning; 
  • Planning reviews, fisheries, environmental monitoring, and natural heritage inventories by our ecology services group;
  • Managing more than 4,000 hectares of natural lands, including extensive forests. Our forest management efforts focus on the health and diversity of the forest ecosystem with restoration and tree planting programs; 
  • Source water protection, which involves protecting water resources, such as lakes, rivers and groundwater, from contamination and overuse; 
  • Encouraging private landowners to protect natural areas on their properties. This is done through the Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program;
  • Our engineering and planning services that help ensure that environmental planning is an integral part of community development. 

Enjoying and Protecting the Natural Spaces in Your Watershed

There are a number of ways you can get out to experience and learn more about the natural spaces in the Conservation Halton watershed. You can also get involved and support efforts to enhance and protect our natural heritage: 

  • Visit Conservation Halton parks for exploring, adventure, learning, and family fun; eleven conservation areas, including one of the few downhill ski and snowboarding areas in Ontario, have been developed and are visited by 600,000 people each year; 
  • Go fishing in one of many areas known for fishing in the watershed;
  • Search for and identify many of the wild species in the watershed;
  • Optimize your garden for local butterflies and wildlife;
  • Sign up for Word on the Watershed, Conservation Halton’s monthly newsletter;
  • Check out the events calendar to see new, exciting opportunities that are coming up;
  • Peruse the Education and Volunteer and Community pages, where you will find many opportunities (including children’s programs) to learn, experience, and get involved;
  • Access the Conservation Halton Lands map to see the Conservation Halton watershed area and where certain features are located.

But Wait! There’s More…

More information on natural spaces in the area and on natural heritage is available from other groups:

Conservation Halton has developed a set of formal viewpoints and fact sheets that highlight the position of the agency regarding various environmental issues and topics. Read up on any topic that interests you:

ViewpointsFact Sheets