Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Rhea D. Mahar, 1994

Towards the Identification of Environmentally Sensitive Areas for Environmental Management: A Case Study in the Sackville River Watershed, Nova Scotia


The identification of Environmentally Sensitive Areas has developed over the last decade as a valuable tool in community planning in Ontario (Waterloo, Halton, and Ottawa-Carleton Regional Districts), but has not previously been adapted for use in Atlantic Canada. Environmental Sensitivity Mapping identifies, surveys and maps Environmentally Sensitive Areas, ESAS, by concentrating on interactions between ecosystem components. This enables the determination of planning principles within a region which will help avoid future conflicts between environment and economic development, which is the fundamental tenet of environmentally sustainable development.

Examples of environmental sensitivities include areas of high biodiversity, unique geological and social significance, rare and endangered species, lake areas, wetlands, fish and wildlife habitats ("wildlife" includes plants, amphibians, insects and mycophyta), stream ravines, and old timber stands.

The Sackville River Watershed falls under the jurisdiction of three municipalities and the Sackville Community Council. The basin itself comprises no less than nine municipal electoral districts. It is also one of Nova Scotia's most rapidly urbanizing watersheds. By identifying ESAS, municipal planners will have a working document with which to define areas which are unsuitable for development. Although studies have been conducted on the Sackville River Basin previously, such as slope angle, barrens, wetlands; or a macro view of a specific attribute, such as scenic resources, a comprehensive municipal approach for proposing local protected areas has not been developed in Nova Scotia.