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Community Forests

Community Forests in the Southern Ontario

In 1921, The Reforestation Act was passed enabling the province to enter into agreement for reforesting, developing and managing lands held by counties. In 1922, Simcoe County was the first to enter into an agreement followed by the Counties of York (1924), Northumberland and Durham (1924) and Ontario (1925) soon followed. By 1940, 12 counties were participating in the Agreement Forest Program.

stump_historicalGrowing concern over erosion and flooding problems in southern Ontario led to the introduction of The Conservation Authorities Act (1946) enabling individual Conservation Authorities to be formed within various watersheds. Twenty-two Conservation Authorities eventually joined the Agreement Forest Program with 36,796 hectares of land.  Over the 76-year period (1922-1998) that the program was in effect, the number of agreement holders varied as new owners entered into agreements while others decided to leave the program. By 1982, the program grew to include 59 agreements with 106,596 hectares of land (OMNR 1982). When the program was discontinued in 1998, there were 56 agreements totaling 128,853 hectares of land.

The Agreement Forest Program consisted of a partnership between the agreement holder and the government through the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR). As the forests matured, the need for the province to act as the sole manager of these areas declined.  The owners were becoming increasingly involved in the day-to-day management, and the public was beginning to take a more active interest in the long-term sustainability of the forest for all values.  In 1994, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources began to negotiate the termination of the formal agreements with the owners, thereby transferring all management responsibilities back to municipalities or Conservation Authorities that owned the forests.  These former Agreement Forests – dubbed ‘Community Forests’ in current vernacular – now form a network of small-scale, owner-managed, public forests in Ontario. 

Geoff_McVey___Scott_Davis_at_Limerick_08-405-800-600-80There are thirteen certified Community Forests in the EOMF Forest Certification Program: Lanark County Forest; Limerick Forest; Larose Forest; Renfrew County Forest; South Nation Conservation Forest; Stormont Dundas & Glengarry Community Forest; Northumberland County Forest; Town of Oakville; Grey County Forest; Long Point Conservation Authority; Saugeen Valley Conservation; Grey Sauble Conservation and Halton Region Forest. For more information on some of these forests please refer to this document: Profiles of Certified Community Forests in Eastern Ontario

Each of these forests has a manager and all are Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®)-certified under the EOMF Forest Certification Program.  FSC certification for individual Community Forests is generally not feasible. Among key barriers are the capacity required to manage a FSC certificate and the affordability of certification on a case-by-case (individual) basis.  By pursuing the certification of all 4 Community Forests jointly, it was made affordable and practicable under the Forest Certification Program.  As with private forest holdings, each Community Forest must adhere to three basic requirements for inclusion in the EOMF certificate as follows:

  1. It must have a forest management plan;
  2. It must sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the EOMF; and,
  3. It must pay an annual contribution fee based on an ownership matrix.