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Regional Forests Background Information

A History of Halton's Regional Forests

From approximately 700 to 1650 AD, the area now known as Halton Region was inhabited by a confederacy of Iroquoian tribes. The Iroquoian people cleared patches of forest to establish villages and farm the land.

In the early 1780s, European settlers came to the area and found dense, primeval forests consisting of oak, maple and pine, beaver meadow and a few Indian cornfields. The stands of white pine were noted by lumber merchants to be the finest they had ever seen. From the 1840s and on, large volumes of pine and oak timber were exported. Maple syrup and sugar were also important products, with a maximum recorded production of 5,472 gallons in 1861.

Halton Region began acquiring land for forestry purposes in 1939. In 1940, reforestation of the lands began with the planting of 30,000 conifer seedlings including white pine, red pine, white spruce and larch. Since then, 134 hectares (330 acres) of land have been reforested. Most of the stands found in the Regional forests today are less than 80 years old.

Today, Halton Region owns 665 hectares (1,645 acres) of forest in 14 separate areas. These forests include wooded areas, wetlands and meadows. Nine of the forest tracts are located in Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) with unique ecosystems. Six of the tracts form part of the Niagara Escarpment area, which is designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

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Forests and the Environment

Our regional forests play a critical role in protecting our environment:

  • Forests help purify our air by filtering dust and absorbing pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulphur dioxide and ozone).
  • Forests serve an important role in mitigating climate change by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the form of wood and other vegetation.
  • Forest cover reduces winter heating and summer cooling energy demands.
  • Trees help maintain good water quality by trapping and breaking down pollutants that are harmful to water. 
  • Trees and vegetation allow precipitation to infiltrate and slow down the rate at which runoff flows into river and streams, preventing erosion and sedimentation of waterways.
  • Healthy forests provide habitat for a variety of species and contribute to Ontario’s biodiversity and the range of benefits and services it provides.

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Plant and Animal Species

Plant Species

  • 517 plant species have been identified in Halton's Regional Forests.
    • 65 of these species are considered rare or uncommon in Halton Region or the GTA.
    • Three of these species are provincially rare.
  • Most of the rare plants that have been found are in deciduous forests or wetlands.
  • Deciduous forest makes up about half of the forests.
  • Conifer plantations, dominated by White Pine and Red Pine, are the next most common forest stand.
  • Common native tree species include:
    • Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
    • White Ash (Fraxinus americana)
    • Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
    • Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
    • Hickory (Carya sp.)
    • American Basswood (Tilia americana)
    • Red Pine (Pinus resinosa)
    • White Pine (Pinus strobus)
    • White Spruce (Picea glauca)

Animal Species

  • 95 bird species were recorded in 2001.
    • 35 of these species need large areas of continuous habitat to thrive.
  • Halton's Regional Forests are one of the premier habitats (in Ontario) for the Jefferson Salamander, which is listed as a threatened species. 
  • Two other salamander species and seven frog or toad species have also been recorded.

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Regional Forest Management Plan

Early in 2005, Regional Council adopted a Management Plan to guide forest uses for the next 20 years.

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Contact Information

  • Ron Reinholt, Regional Forester
    Planning Tel: 905-825-6000 Ext. 7279
    Planning Fax: 905-825-8822
    Toll-free Tel: 1-866-4HALTON (1-866-442-5866)
    TTY: 905-827-9833

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