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Protecting Canada's Forests

Conservation Authorities: Partners for the Future of Ontario’s Forests

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Cheyene Brunet

Associate Forester, South Nation Conservation

Chris Craig

Senior Forest Technician, South Nation Conservation

Deforestation across Canada is happening at an accelerated pace. Land development requires a balance between growth pressures and environmental concerns. Imbalance can lead to significant consequences, including decreased air and water quality and increased risk of flooding in our communities. Conservation Ontario, and the 36 conservation authorities across the province it represents, is working to change that.

These non-profit organizations fill the gap between all levels of government, industry, and private property owners to support strong land management decisions which in turn support healthy communities. Their collaborative approach supports education, tree planting, and flood management among other services.


We asked Cheyene Brunet, associate forester and Chris Craig, senior forest technician, both from South Nation Conservation to share more about the conservation efforts underway in the province and why this work is important.

Why is the work of Conservation Ontario and local conservation authorities important?

We are one of the only agencies with boots on the ground in Ontario to support the management, conservation, and restoration of natural resources, including our forests and waterways. This work helps protect people and property from flooding, erosion, and landslides.

How do conservation authorities support sustainable forests, while also encouraging economic development?

Conservation authorities are the second largest landowners in the province (after Crown land). Some of this land is sustainably managed forest, where timber products are harvested to support the local economy. Many of these forests are managed to the Forest Stewardship Council standards, to ensure that forest products and the natural environment are handled correctly at every stage of production.

What impact does climate change have on our forests and why is tree planting important?

With a changing climate, Ontario continues to face more frequent and more intense storms, which have contributed to record amounts of rainfall in short periods of time. It’s been proven that forested areas around watercourses are some of the most important natural habitats, not only for biodiversity and wildlife, but also for erosion protection and flood mitigation. Last year, conservation authorities planted over two million trees across Ontario’s watersheds. Additionally, drought conditions and the pervasive introduction of invasive species have a negative impact on forest health and create conditions where wildfires can become a concern.   

What do we need to do to ensure our forests and woodlands are sustainable?

Planting more trees and the funding to do that is critical. It’s costly and we don’t have the human resources to scale it up. We also need to look at trees differently. We’re not always extracting the maximum value of trees when a decision is made for the land to be  cleared. One service we offer is site visits on private lands to advise owners to get the most out of harvested trees.

How important are partnerships, especially with Indigenous communities?

Partnership with government, non-profits, business, and communities is essential. We rely on funding from our partners to sustain our work. Indigenous communities in particular have a strong connection to the land and a holistic approach to forest management.

What message do you have for people who lives in cities, who may feel detached from our forests?

I would encourage them to Step Into Nature and spend time volunteering and learning about our forests, woodlands, and wetland areas – visit our Conservation Areas. They can see how we’re trying to conserve the environment, while also supporting sustainable development. Forest health is directly related to our own health. It impacts the air we breathe and the water we drink.  

Partner with a Conservation Authority to help protect and enhance Ontario’s watersheds. Contact your local Conservation Authority at conservationontario.ca to learn more. 

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