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Toronto Nature Stewards

winter ravine

Vision

A Toronto where people across the city can access natural areas that are home to healthy biodiverse ecosystems where people, plants, and animals are thriving.

Mission

  • To engage and educate the people of Toronto in the stewardship of our ravines and natural areas without direct City staff supervision.
  • To provide evidence-based training and resources to Lead Stewards, private property owners, and citizen volunteers in improving natural area ecological health and biodiversity.
A trout lily

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.

Independent Stewardship

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.

Shortly afterwards, 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.  

Activities

Toronto Nature Stewards has been meeting regularly since January 2020 and consulting with a much larger group of stakeholders on the following terms:

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.

Both manuals will be updated continually as new information and methods become available, and city permissions are granted.

Online training
TNS is developing a curriculum for Lead Stewards who would like to Adopt-a-Patch of land and take care of it with a team of volunteers. Our plan is to soft launch this pilot program in spring 2021 with our first “crop” of Lead Stewards and a pre-defined set of permitted activities.

Join Us

With a strong united voice and coordinated efforts, we can facilitate independent stewardship and make real strides towards improving the ecological health of Toronto's ravines and areas.

  • Sign up for our newsletter by sending a request to torontonaturestewards@utoronto.ca.
  • Review the DRAFT public land stewardship manual. (See below.)
  • Speak to your councillor about the need for independent stewardship. Not sure who your councillor is? Click here to find out.
  • Participate in a volunteer stewardship group in a ravine or natural area near you.

Resources

City of Toronto strategies