The Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (NEP) is the oldest of the three plans, it came into effect in 1985. It comprises about 480,750 acres of forests, farms, wetlands, waterfalls, mineral resources, conservation areas, historic sites, parks, villages, town and cities. The escarpment was named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve due to its unique landforms (including 400 million year old fossils) and rare plants. The NEP is home to the Bruce Trail, one of Canada’s oldest, longest and most scenic foot trails.
The Niagara Escarpment Plan is administered by the Niagara Escarpment Commission, a regulatory agency. The Commission is a corporate body that makes decisions on development proposals, and official plans. Of the three plans, it is the only one with a commission responsible for enforcement and compliance, inspecting and reporting on works approved by development permits. For the past 40 years, the commission has been very effective in meeting the objectives of the plan.