Plan to ensure residents ‘cherish, respect’ forest

York Regional Forest is a favourite destination for walkers, hikers, bird watchers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Nearly a century after York Region took ownership of the forest, it’s developing the next long-term plan to ensure residents ‘cherish, understand and respect it as a living natural asset.’

“York Region continues to work with nature and our communities to further support the 2,300 hectares of protected land known as our York Regional Forest,” says York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson. “The plan sets a clear vision for ensuring it will be beneficial now and for future generations.”

It’s in our Nature: Management Plan for the York Regional Forest 2019 to 2038 outlines a vision and three goals and key actions. The first, Strengthen Ecological Integrity, focuses on strengthening the health, diversity, resiliency and sustainability of the forest. The second, Foster an Understanding of the Broader Benefits, aims to demonstrate the forest provides a wealth of environmental and social benefits, key to the Region’s vision of healthy, thriving communities.

The third, Inspire People, will encourage public use that inspires respect for the Forest and a connection with nature. In developing the plan, York Region drew from a wide range of expertise and technical advice, and held several community open houses and surveys.

“The value of the forest extends well beyond the natural environment,” says Vaughan Regional Councillor Mario Ferri, Chair of Environmental Services. “Studies increasingly show the broader social and health benefits, which is why it is important to have a strategy for how our forest will be managed most responsibly.”

Under the previous forest management plan from 1998 to 2018, the York Regional Forest was the first public forest in Canada to achieve Forest Stewardship Council certification – something it achieved in 2000. The forest now includes 23 tracts of about 2,400 hectares and is recognized for excellence in forest management, invasive species management, accessible trails and public programs.

The forest is home to pines, maple, oak and hemlock. Less than a century ago, much of the land was abandoned farmland, with sandy soil that blew into drifts that sometimes blocked local roads. York Region has owned the York Regional Forest since 1924 and assumed full responsibility of the forest from the provincial government in 1998.

The York Regional Forest is home to 120 kilometres of trails. It’s an increasingly biodiverse and resilient ecosystem of woodlands, wetlands and prairie grasslands. Photo courtesy of AllTrails.

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