Definition of Greenlands

In a 1990 report titled Space For All: Options for A Greater Toronto Area Greenlands Strategy (Kanter 1990), Greenlands were defined as various elements of the natural environment (e.g., wetlands, woodlands, etc.) or as specific areas (e.g., ESAs, ANSIs, etc.) that have been recognized by a provincial ministry, conservation authority or municipality on the basis of exhibiting some intrinsic ecological significance or sensitivity. This recognition is generally translated into some degree of protective status being assigned to the feature, either through provincial or municipal land use policy.

In the present study, this definition of Greenlands has been expanded to include not only the terrestrial or land-based elements of the ecosystem, but also water-based features such as streams, creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes.

The term Greenlands, therefore, as used in this study, collectively refers to the following features:

  • Provincially Significant Wetlands*
  • Non-provincially (Locally) Significant Wetlands
  • Unevaluated Wetlands1

  • Provincially Significant Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSIs)*
  • Regionally Significant ANSIs
  • Significant Woodlands*
  • Other Woodlands
  • Significant Valleylands*
  • Significant Wildlife Habitat*
  • Critical Habitat of Threatened and Endangered Species*
  • Fish Habitat*
  • Watercourses (streams, creeks, rivers) and Waterbodies (ponds, lakes)
  • Environmentally Significant/ Sensitive Areas (ESAs)
  • Other miscellaneous municipal designations (see below)

Those features marked with an asterisk are considered significant elements of the Province's Natural Heritage System under Section 2.3 of the 1997 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). These features are deemed to be significant at a provincial level, the loss of which would have an adverse impact on the Natural Heritage System of Ontario.

In many cases the lands referred to generically as "Greenlands" in this report represent more than one feature of ecological significance. For example, it is not unusual for a Provincially Significant Wetland to also be classified as an ANSI and/or ESA, while Fish Habitat is typically associated with a Watercourse, which may flow through a Significant Valleyland.

In this study the term "Greenlands" excludes active and fallow agricultural land,2 vacant (cleared) land, and open space parkland with a recreational focus, such as municipal parks, none of which can be considered a natural heritage feature possessing intrinsic ecological function or value.

See Appendix A for more detailed definitions of the Greenlands features discussed here

1. Wetlands that have not been evaluated following the protocol of the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES). These wetlands tend to be very small wetlands or northern wetlands situated on the Canadian Shield.
2. Agricultural land should be considered as a land use type distinct from Greenlands, with its own set of unique issues as they relate to urban expansion and land development. However, if left to undergo natural succession, abandoned agricultural land will eventually revert to an old field or cultural thicket community. Depending on the age, composition and structure of the vegetation communities they support, these areas may possess enough ecological value to be considered Greenlands. In these cases, however, the definition of Greenlands is based on actual land cover rather than on Official Plan designation or ownership, since many lands zoned Agricultural and/or Rural in an Official Plan may contain Greenlands features such as woodlands, wetlands and old field habitats.