What’s Old is New Again: Natural Heritage Policies Released for the Provincial Planning Statement, 2023
On June 16th, 2023, the Province published an updated version of the Provincial Planning Statement, 2023 (the “PPS 2023”) to the Environmental Registry of Ontario which now includes natural heritage policies and related definitions. Overall, there are few noteworthy modifications from the natural heritage policies found in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 (the “PPS 2020”).
Base Policies Left Unchanged
No changes were made to the natural heritage policies of the PPS 2020. However, the policies have been transposed to Section 4.1 of the PPS 2023.
Some Modifications Made to Associated Definitions
The update does make several noteworthy modifications to the definitions associated with the natural heritage policies. These changes are summarized below.
Natural Heritage Features and Areas
The definition of Natural Heritage Features and Areas has been modified to no longer include “habitat of endangered species and threatened species” which is separately defined.
The definition of Negative Impacts has been expanded to make it clear that any development or site alteration that would preclude the function of transportation and infrastructure corridors or otherwise compromise or conflict with their planned or existing function or capacity would constitute a Negative Impact on the corridor. A Negative Impact could also arise in the transportation and infrastructure corridor context should development or site alteration give rise to cost conflicts.
The definition of Significant has removed reference to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in particular and now refers to evaluation procedures and criteria established by the Province more broadly. Additionally, mention of cultural heritage and archaeology resources that have been determined to have cultural heritage value have been removed from the definition of Significant.
Under the definition for Wetland, additional language is provided that makes it clear that lands that are periodically soaked or are being used for agricultural purposes which no longer exhibit wetland characteristics are not Wetlands.
For the most part the natural heritage policies of the PPS 2023 reflect those found in the PPS 2020, which should minimize uncertainty about how the policies are to be applied, should they come in force as proposed.