Steps to Creating a Natural Heritage System

Step 1: Pre-planning and Terms of Reference

A Terms of Reference document is guiding a collaborative of stakeholders representing different interests from within the project area. This collaborative is called the Scenario Planning Team, whose activities are supported by a group of partner organizations that make up a Steering Committee. The first meeting of the Steering Committee took place in February 2011.

The Terms of Reference was developed using material from other similar projects as a starting point and it was reviewed and edited by the Steering Committee on April 7, 2011. The Scenario Planning Team reviewed and finalized this Terms of Reference on December 6, 2011. Our agreed-to vision, goals, and guiding principles guide the direction of the project.

Step 2: Compile Data

Successful Natural Heritage System design and planning is based on a comprehensive foundation of information, data, and knowledge. Local stakeholder and partner knowledge constitutes an important part of this information base.

At this stage we also identify gaps in information and data, with new information integrated as it becomes available (at any stage of the process).

The landscape and the associated boundaries of the project area help to define the data sources required and the scope and availability of the information requirements.

Step 3: Stakeholders set targets for initial scenarios

The Scenario Planning Team sets the targets for the Natural Heritage System. Technical advisors, ecological experts (internal and external to the Scenario Planning Team), and the resource analyst prepare a list of targets and constraints for consideration, based on the best science available.

The technical advisors also prepare background information on existing science-based thresholds and targets, and the data available to support the targets.

Example features that may have targets applied include: amount of forest and wetland, forest and wetland patch sizes, forest interior, headwater wetlands and woodlands, biodiversity types, and rare habitats.

Step 4: Model scenarios for comparison

The analysis of the learning scenarios is completed by the technical advisors using a decision-support tool called Marxan.

This tool objectively searches through millions of design options (Ardron and Possingham 2010). It effectively identifies arrangements of areas that best meet the objectives and targets established for the system by the Scenario Planning Team, while minimizing system area.

Marxan has been applied around the world to provide decision support for conservation reserve planning. It has been used for Natural Heritage Design in Ontario by OMNR and has been found to be an effective means of identifying priority natural areas (OMNR 2006).

Step 5: Stakeholders review and discuss scenarios, and develop a preferred scenario

Participants work together to select a preferred scenario. This may involve revising the initial targets, or combining one or more of the initial scenarios. The initial scenarios are compared against how well they meet the overall project goal of creating an information tool to support decision-making. Possible criteria that could be used for comparison include how much of the landscape is included; how well targets are achieved; how much wetland, woodland, and other features are included; how connected each scenario is; the amount of NHS currently protected; if considerations by various groups are addressed (e.g. agriculture); and if the NHS provides useful information. The preferred scenario is chosen by consensus.

Step 6: Model preferred scenario

This is an extra analysis step that is only required if changes are requested. If changes to the initial scenarios were requested by the Scenario Planning Team, the technical advisors re-run the analysis to produce the preferred scenario.

Step 7: Stakeholders review the map and finalize the results through consensus

The final preferred scenario mapping (with requested adjustments) is reviewed and agreed to by the Scenario Planning Team.

Step 8: Final mapping of priority features, areas and linkages

The preferred scenario is a map of features that were required to meet the targets specified by the Scenario Planning Team. This mapping may be further refined for specific uses during implementation. In addition to the map of targeted areas, there are many other data layers available in the final product. The project outcome is an information package containing 30+ input layers compiled from the best available data (e.g. forest patch sizes and interior) and targeted areas and information about their significance to the landscape as a whole. The data package contains multiple layers that may be useful for various purposes.

Step 9 and throughout project: Integrated stakeholder team establish goals together, shares knowledge and understanding, builds trust and achieves consensus

A key part of this process is the relationship building and understanding that results from discussions among a diverse group of stakeholders. These relationships can help pave the way for implementation and for future collaboration.

Phase #2: Implementation

This is the stage during which the Natural Heritage System information is used. Implementation phases usually have time horizons of 5 to 20 years. It can include a wide variety of activities, from communicating results to the use of the products to supporting decision-making by participating organizations.

The work and understanding of this project will be reflected in the natural heritage system established in both the Peterborough County and City of Kawartha Lakes Official Plan Amendment. Although this is mandated by the Province through the Provincial Policy Statement, this project goes beyond by sharing information and through implementation measures being undertaken by all partners in the collaborative, including land securement and stewardship activities.

Please note: NHS reports, products and mapping are available as described below.

• Phase 2 Reports, PDF maps,  Google Earth map files &  user instructions -

• A package of compiled  information and spatial  data layers available under  Open Data license from  Land Information  Ontario (LIO)