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Environmentally Sensitive Areas

As our urban areas continue to grow, so does the need to protect our natural areas. Within the Town of Sidney, several areas have been designated as environmentally sensitive to better protect them from increased pressure from human activity.

To date, urbanization has been the main contributor to loss of natural areas. However, emerging threats such as climate change and the introduction of invasive species will put more pressure on these systems in the future.

To ensure our natural areas and the many benefits they provide are preserved, the Town of Sidney is actively working with community members and outside organizations to ensure environmentally sensitive areas are identified, protected, and where possible, enhanced.

How does Sidney Protect Environmentally Sensitive Areas?

In Sidney, several distinct areas have been designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA). All ESAs are designated as Development Permit Areas within the Town’s Official Community Plan (OCP), and are subject to individual guidelines and policies designed to regulate development in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Sidney currently has five ESA’s identified within the OCP:

What is Your Responsibility as a Property Owner or Visitor Within an ESA?

If your property is within an ESA, you are required to apply for a development permit when undertaking any major landscape or building alterations. This permit will be subject to the specific Development Permit Area Guidelines for the ESA you reside in, listed within the OCP. To determine if any work you plan on undertaking require a development permit, please contact the Town of Sidney Development Services Department by phone at 250-656-1725 or by email at

The following additional actions can help reduce your environmental impact when living in, or visiting an ESA:

  • Stay on designated trails, and minimize disturbance to existing native vegetation and soils.
  • Keep pets on a leash and noise levels at a minimum during bird nesting season from late March to mid-August.
  • Avoid use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on your property.
  • Plant native flowers, shrubs and trees on your property. You can review the Town's Native Flora Planting List for more information.
  • Minimize the use of hard, impermeable surfaces on your property

Environmentally Sensitive Areas in Sidney

Roberts Bay

Roberts Bay provides winter habitat for migratory birds in the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and year-round habitat for a variety of local wildlife.

Beaufort Road

The stand of Coastal Douglas Fir trees located along Beaufort Road is one of the last remaining in Sidney, and provides habitat for a variety of coastal birds.

Mermaid Creek

Flowing into Roberts Bay, Mermaid Creek provides important estuary habitat for birds within the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Lochside Waterfront

Sidney’s waterfront is a popular spot for shorebirds, and is ideal for low-impact recreational uses, such as walking, sea kayaking and cycling.

Reay Creek

Though small, Reay Creek provides valuable spawning grounds for Coho Salmon and Sea-run Cutthroat Trout. Efforts are currently underway to restore degraded sections.


Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Established in 1931, Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is one of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries on Canada’s coast. It provides valuable habitat for an estimated 51 different species of migratory and resident birds, including Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Horned Grebe and Great Blue Heron. Shoal Harbour’s success is attributed to its diverse range of habitats, ranging from rich eelgrass and kelp beds, vast inter-tidal mudflats, and specialized shoreline vegetation supporting a diversity of species found nowhere else in Canada. To help protect the Sanctuary, Sidney has designated Roberts Bay as an Environmentally Sensitive Area.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests within the Shoal Harbour MBS. However, it is the responsibility of individual landowners and visitors to the sanctuary to ensure the habitat is managed appropriately, and that activities carried out don’t pose a risk to wildlife. Public access is not restricted within the sanctuary, although some activities are. For more information on the Shoal Harbour MBS, including a list of prohibited activities, please contact Environment and Climate Change Canada.