The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority

Riverine Flood Status
Flood Outlook
Lake Simcoe Shoreline Status
Low Water Status

Natural Heritage Strategy

Natural Heritage System and Restoration Strategy

The Lake Simcoe watershed continues to be one of the fastest growing regions in Canada. Our increasing population and urban expansion requires us to plan appropriately so that growth can be accommodated in a manner that maintains natural heritage, encourages healthy living and preserves quality of all life. 

With natural heritage protection in mind, we recently published our Natural Heritage System and Restoration Strategy. This document includes an implementation plan to protect and restore our natural spaces, so that everyone can enjoy them for many years to come. 

The strategy began with an inventory of all the natural heritage features (such as woodlands, wetlands, watercourses) in our watershed. Once completed, we discovered that our watershed has over 128,000 hectares of natural heritage to protect. We also compiled a list of 39 strategic action items​. We now have clear and measurable guidelines to protect, grow and enhance our natural heritage features. 

While efforts are underway to achieve target goals, it’s important to recognize that the responsibility of implementation falls on all of our watershed partners to implement environmental practices and industry standards. 

Putting a Number on Nature

The importance of a Natural Heritage System and Restoration Strategy can be made even more important if we apply an economic value to our natural heritage features. To that end, we took it a step further by analyzing the economic value of the natural capital in our watershed, in partnership with a company called Green Analytics. 

The concept of “natural capital” attaches​ a dollar value to the various benefits our ecosystem provides, such as recreation, water supply, pollination, clean air and carbon sequestration. The results are in and the annual value of our watershed’s key ecosystem services is estimated to be a staggering $922.7 million per year! 

Read the “Valuing Natural Capital” report

Why do we need a Natural Heritage System and Restoration Strategy?

All of the features in the watershed are connected and provide numerous environmental benefits. This restoration strategy will help protect and restore our natural spaces to ensure resilience when facing challenges such as climate change and land use planning.

Our restoration strategy identifies core features that are critical to the health of the Natural Heritage System. These core features make up approximately 45% of the watershed and include:

Watercourses and Fish Habitat – 13% ​​A flow of water which regularly or continuously occurs (such as rivers, creeks and streams). 

Natural Areas Abutting Lake Simcoe 2% Land bordering the Lake Simcoe shoreline with natural vegetation of any plant form (excluding agricultural land and manicured lawns). 

Shoreline 0.3% The strip of land surrounding Lake Simcoe. 

Wetlands 18% An area of land that is seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water. The four major types of wetlands are swamps, marshes, bogs, and fens. 

Woodlands 35% Woodlands include treed areas, woodlots or forested areas. 

Valleylands 3% A low-lying area that has water flowing through or standing for part of the year. 

Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest 6% Land and water with natural features that are valuable for protection and scientific study. 

Restoration Strategy Targets

The Natural Heritage System and Restoration Strategy outlines opportunities for enhancement and protection, with the goal of restoring the watershed to its natural state. This strategy supports the enhancement of targeted areas such as grassland habitat and corridor restoration, as well as creates regional and local linkages to provide connectivity across the watershed. 

In total, this strategy identifies 39 action items that will lead to a sustainable and resilient Natural Heritage System. View the action items here.

Interesting Facts

In the Lake Simcoe watershed, you will find thousands of species of plants and animals! There are:

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Aquatic and Terrestrial Benthics

Approximately 427 native local species are regionally rare to the watershed and 65 are provincial or national species at risk (SAR) in the watershed.​

What is a Natural Heritage System?​

Natural heritage systems are made up of natural heritage features and areas, linked by natural corridors, which are necessary to maintain biological and geological diversity, natural functions, viable populations of indigenous species and ecosystems.

These systems can include:

  • wetlands
  • coastal wetlands
  • fish habitat
  • woodlands
  • valleylands​

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