Niagara Escarpment Plan Review

2015 is the year of significant reviews of provincial policies. The Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Plan , the Greenbelt Plan as well as the Growth Strategy Plan are all up for review. In addition there are plans to review the Metrolinx plan, the Wetlands policies and the Conservation Authority policies. Having served a two year term and a current three year term on the Niagara Escarpment Commission, I am awaiting a decision by May to see if I will remain a member of the NEC. During the last two years we have devoted considerable time to the consideration of possible changes and improvements to the Niagara Escarpment Plan and to updates which would align the policies and wordings among the various plans under review.

The Niagara Escarpment Commission is comprised of eight members of the public and eight members of the municipalities in which the escarpment is located plus a Chair. All members are reviewed by a secretariat and appointments result from an Order in Council of the Provincial Cabinet. Meetings are held monthly at the headquarters in Georgetown with one day policy meetings in the spring and fall in the Niagara region and in the near north.

The Niagara Escarpment Plan outlines land use designations, development criteria and related permitted uses, including farming, forestry and mineral extraction. It also provides the framework for a string of 141 Niagara Escarpment Parks and Open Spaces (NEPOSS) linked by the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest footpath which stretches 773 kilometres (480 miles) from Queenston Heights to Tobermorey

The escarpment extends beyond our province through New York State and on the west to Michigan, Wisconson and Illinois. Designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1990, the Niagara Escarpment is an internationally recognized landform and is the cornerstone of Ontario’s Greenbelt. A landscape of rich biodiversity, home to hundreds of Ontario’s Species at Risk, vital watersheds, agricultural areas and 450-million year old geological history, the Niagara Escarpment is a treasure to protect for future generations of Ontarians.

Unlike municipal boundaries and other boundaries, the Escarpment areas are not identified by straight lines. First protected in 1985, the escarpment is protected by identified zones. These are the Natural Areas, the Protected Areas, the Rural Areas, the Mineral Extraction Areas , the Recreation Areas  and the Urban Areas. Since first identified, there has been considerable improvements to mapping and on-site inspection and consideration is being given to upgrading the boundaries of the various protected areas based on modern science and mapping tools.

As the spring approaches. why not consider a hike along the Bruce Trail to explore our treasure, the Niagara Escarpment.

Brian Baty is the directly elected Niagara Regional Councillor for Pelham and is a member of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. He can be contacted at