Toronto’s natural areas are at an ecological tipping point. Invasive species, climate change, overuse and misuse by people, intensive land development, and excessive litter threaten the current and future health of the city’s wild species and natural communities.
In addition, there is a growing separation between people and nature, as we spend more time indoors and are less aware and respectful of the land and species on which our very survival depends.
Stewardship addresses all these issues. Through stewardship, we learn about and care for the land.
There is a tremendous need and opportunity for stewardship in Toronto that cannot be met by government alone. Citizen involvement in stewardship will benefit not only the land and resident wild species, but the people who participate in it.
Stewardship — re-establishing connections with the land and species, and caring for them — is the perfect antidote to feelings of hopelessness that many people face in light of global issues like climate change and biodiversity loss.
In January 2020, Toronto city council passed several motions that addressed ravine strategy implementation. Council directed the creation of the following:
- Natural areas stewardship programs to deal with invasive species that will permit qualified volunteers to lead volunteer groups without city supervision.
- A user-friendly and cost-effective protocol that will support and encourage citizen volunteer engagement in both ravine cleanup and stewardship to help restore ravines and other natural areas.
At that same time, a group of volunteers, now referred to as Toronto Nature Stewards (TNS), came together to support the implementation of council’s motions and advance independent stewardship.
We define independent stewardship as stewardship activities carried out by volunteers that are led by trained lead stewards without the supervision of city staff.
Our group has been meeting regularly since January 2020 and consulting with a much larger group of stakeholders on the following items:
Manual for public land stewardship
In summer of 2020, a group of volunteers and interns from the University of Toronto's Forest Conservation program drafted a stewardship manual for public land. More than 30 experienced stewards, academics and industry experts contributed to the creation of this resource. Councillor James Pasternak presented the manual to the city's Executive Committee as part of a motion he brought forward in November 2020.
Manual for private land stewardship
A complementary manual was created for private land. It has been similarly reviewed, with input from private ravine property owners. Since nature makes no distinction between public and private land, private ravine property owners have an important role to play in stewardship.
TNS is developing a series of online training sessions for stewards who would like to assume more of a leadership role for a specific stewardship program or team. Our plan is to deliver this pilot program in spring 2021.
In addition, TNS members are meeting with city councillors and staff to discuss the manuals as well as the broader issue of more autonomous stewardship.
With a strong united voice and coordinated efforts, we can facilitate independent stewardship and make real strides towards ecological restoration Toronto.
- Sign up for our newsletter by sending a request to email@example.com.
- Review the DRAFT public land stewardship manual, studies and strategies. (See below.)
- Speak to your councillor about the need for independent stewardship. Not sure who your councillor is? Click here to find out.
City of Toronto strategies