Forest picture

Natural Heritage Evaluations

The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act requires that any development proposal that is within or in proximity to a significant natural heritage feature must complete a Natural Heritage Evaluation (NHE). The NHE is a comprehensive assessment of the existing natural features (e.g., biotic communities, ground water, geologic) that must comply with the technical requirements of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. The Plan defines specific setbacks or buffers that must be applied to large scale development or individual private property construction projects when proposed development within the moraine. The sensitivity and complexity of the natural environment and interactions among various biological and physical processes, an NHE requires an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to fully identify the potential impacts to local ecological functions and processes. Azimuth applies the terrestrial and aquatic biology, wetland ecology, botany and hydrogeology disciplines to fully evaluate the environmental implications of a project.

The methodology for the evaluation of impacts to the natural heritage features on the moraine are specified in technical guidelines issued by the Province that must be followed that involve a three-season field study involving vegetation, amphibians/reptiles, breeding birds, fisheries, ground and surface water. The NHE must identify all existing natural heritage features located on or in proximity to the proposed development; evaluate the potential impacts, both direct and indirect, associated with the construction and permanent development; provide strategies to mitigate or offset any perceived impacts so that there will be “no negative impact” on the natural features. Azimuth has successfully completed numerous NHE for private landowners and development interests throughout the moraine.