Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) are sites identified as areas that provide productive fish and wildlife habitat; contain sensitive, rare or depleted ecosystems and landforms; and represent sites of Nanaimo's natural diversity that are in danger of disappearing.

The City of Nanaimo currently has an Environmentally Sensitive Development Permit Area identified in the Official Community Plan. For more information, contact the Environmental Planner.

Environmentally Sensitive Area types

Wetlands - found where water remains at or near the land surface. They are considered the most productive ecosystems of all.

Riparian - ecosystems formed beside lakes, streams and rivers where soil moisture and lighting conditions support plants that are distinct from surrounding land areas. They supply critical habitat conditions for fish (food, cover and water) and wildlife.

Terrestrial Herbaceous - landscapes that contain open areas with shallow soil  and include grass or moss covered rock outcrops. Few trees are found here, but in the spring time, wildflowers are often seen. Some are considered rare and endangered. 

Arbutus / Garry oak Woodland - are open forested areas that support a rich diversity of plants, insects, reptiles and birds. Garry oak woodland is known to have an especially high number of plant species.

Older Forests - are largely conifer forests with an average age of 100 years or more. These ecosystems include standing dead trees, fallen logs and large live trees. Some species found here can only survive in habitats such as hollow tree centers and underneath thick tree bark.

Why protect these sites?

ESAs are RARE: more than 90% of their original landscape has been altered or removed. Garry oak woodlands are one of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada.

ESAs add to the QUALITY OF LIFE in Nanaimo: they add variety to the landscape and they indicate a healthy environment. They are also a piece of our living history. For example, wetlands purify drinking water, forests clean the air and open meadows are spectacular to see in spring.

ESAs are biologically DIVERSE: ESAs have a higher proportion of life than non-ESAs. Protecting these sites helps maintain local BIODIVERSITY for the future.

ESAs bring nature to COMMUNITIES: these spaces give residents a chance to observe a wide variety of wildlife in a relatively short distant from their homes.

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Last updated: June 6, 2017

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