Ministry of Environment

Environmental Stewardship Division

SEI Update

A publication of the Sensitive Ecosystems Inventory Project
February 1998

Using SEI data in an OCP: The District of Highlands Experience
Looking at an SEI map of the District of Highlands is a very colourful experience - about 60% of the municipality is in SEI sites. At first glance, this looks like a real planning challenge.
But the District has embraced the SEI data, and is one of the first municipalities to include it in their Official Community Plan (OCP), adopted in July1997. The OCP includes a map based on the SEI sites showing older forest, herbaceous vegetation and mixed woodland, and states that Sensitive Vegetation Areas will be "protected from the impacts of development or other human activity by the following policies: The preservation of native plant communities and intact stands of trees is encouraged. Sensitive vegetation areas will be designated as Development Permit Areas."

Older second growth areas (covering 43% of Highlands) are used for broad land use, rezoning and greenways planning rather than for development permit designation.

"The SEI provides a valuable layer of information,"says planner Kevin Key. "Previously, we just had information on slopes, watercourses and wetlands -now we have information on vegetative cover as well.It also provides us with direction for focussing resources to protect priority sites on private land."

Key stresses that the SEI data is just a flagging tool. Where a development application includes an SEI site, the District may require the applicant to provide (and pay for) a report from an independent certified professional that will assist in determining any conditions or requirements that may be imposed as part of the permit. This field check will also identify the boundaries of the site, and check the condition of the ecosystem - in some cases, the site may have changed significantly since it was originally identified.
One-third of Highlands is already protected in provincial and regional parks, and the District has successfully used conservation covenants to protect 104 ha of private land, including smaller ecosystems not part of the SEI. For Kevin Key, a flexible approach is essential - protecting ecosystem values may involve park dedication, density transfer and clustering, conservation covenants or siting buildings and roads away from sensitive areas.

The SEI data is still a relatively new planning tool, but with Council and community support, it will be another mechanism to maintain the natural character of theHighlands.

For more information please contact Kevin Key, District of Highlands, phone(250) 474-1773,

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