Spanning 725 kilometres from the tip of the Niagara Region to the top of the Bruce Peninsula, the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere, is one of the world’s most magnificent natural landforms. More than 450 million years old, the Escarpment makes up almost one-quarter of Ontario’s Greenbelt and is home to Canada’s longest footpath, the Bruce Trail. As one of the last remaining bands of continuous forest cover and natural heritage linkages in Southern Ontario, it provides vital habitat for numerous species at risk and is the source of many of the Greater Golden Horseshoe’s major river systems. 

Recognizing this important land feature, the Ontario government established the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) in June 1973 under the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (NEPDA).

In 1985, the Province created the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP), Canada’s first large-scale environmental land-use plan. The NEP area covers 195,000 hectares in portions of 23 local municipalities within seven regions and counties and the City of Hamilton. The plan establishes land-use designations, development criteria and related permitted uses. It also provides the framework for a string of more than 160 parks and open spaces linked by the Bruce Trail. 

What we do

The NEC is a statutory body that operates at “arms length” from the provincial government in accordance with the NEPDA and the Agency Establishment and Accountability Directive under the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Natural Resources and Forestry (NDMNRF).  The NEC is mandated to develop, interpret and apply NEP policies that maintain and enhance the vitality of the Escarpment’s unique environmental and landscape features. Its decisions are made independently, impartially, and according to a risk management framework. 

 The NEC has 17 members (Commissioners) appointed by Order-in-Council.  Nine members, including the Chair, represent the public-at-large and eight municipally-elected members represent counties, cities and regions within the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) area. 

 The Commission meets monthly to consider development permits and land use proposals, policy items, and NEP amendments.  Meetings are open to the public and are usually held at the NEC’s main office in Georgetown.  The Commission reports to the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Natural Resources and Forestry and is supported by a staff of 24, operating from offices in Georgetown and Owen Sound.