Urban Forest Management
The City of Toronto maintains planted, naturalized areas through best management practices such as forest thinning, prescribed burns and controlling invasive plant species. Those practices create healthy forests that provide many environmental benefits. Learn how you can help and what to expect when forest management operations are happening in your area.
Pollution, construction, erosion and other factors deteriorate our natural habitats, and invasive species take advantage of the disturbance to thrive. Invasive species compete with native plants for growing space and nutrients. Please keep in mind that Invasive species management on public land is done by UF qualified staff only.
What you can do to help
- Plant native plants instead of non-native and invasive ones on your property.
- Know if you have invasive plants on your property.
- Use Waste Collection Services to dispose of garden waste and compost.
- Know where your topsoil/other fill material comes from and that it’s not a source of invasive seeds.
- Stop seeds from germinating in disturbed soil by:
- minimizing tilling and digging on your property
- keeping pets on leashes
- staying on designated trails in parks
You may need a permit to Injure or Remove a Tree.
|Plant Type||Method: Manual Control||Method: Chemical Control|
|Herbaceous Annual or Biennial
(Garlic mustard, Himalayan balsam, tall sweet white clover, burdock)
|hand pull or cut close to the base when flowering||only in extreme circumstances|
(Dog-strangling vine periwinkles, Japanese knotweed, goutweed)
||apply herbicide using spray bottle or sponge:
(Norway maple, Manitoba maple, white mulbery, Siberian elm, white poplar, common buckthorn, tartarian honeysuckle, burning bush, Asiatic bitterwseet, riverbank grape)
||cut stems and apply herbicide to stem|
Cosmetic use of pesticides is prohibited unless authorized by a permit from Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
Prescribed burns are used in South Humber Park, Lambton Park, and High Park. Access to the park(s) and its facilities may be limited during a burn.
A prescribed burn is a deliberately set and carefully controlled fire. It burns low to the ground and consumes dried leaves, small twigs and grass stems but does not harm larger trees. It encourages the growth of native savannah vegetation and sets back the growth of undesirable invasive species.
Prescribed burns are:
- Planned and lead by a highly trained Fire Boss.
- Controlled by the Fire Boss and a trained crew so the prescribed burn:
- progresses at a walking pace
- removes invasive/exotic species
- remains under control
- Used on small areas of land to ensure the survival of habitats for birds, butterflies and insects.
During burns, onsite City staff:
- provide information about the burn
- ensure public and wildlife safety
Why we have prescribed burns
Toronto is home to the rare black oak savannah ecosystem. Only 1% of this ecosystem remains after human settlement. Wildfires are a natural occurrence in savannah ecosystems. Prescribed Burns are designed to mimic wildfires and benefit native plants and animals by removing invasive/exotic plants and grass, restoring wildlife habitat, and returning nutrients to the soil.
Tree thinning is a selective removal of trees and shrubs from a densely planted area so that the remaining trees will have better access to growing space, light, water and other nutrients.
During a tree thinning:
- downed trees will be left behind to decompose unless doing so will be unsafe or cause problems
- most sites will be replanted with new native trees and shrubs
- invasive/exotic plants will be prevented by the use of herbicides
- signs will be posted if herbicides are used
Sites may look different after tree thinning.
Why tree thinning is done
Succession is the natural process of replacement of one group of plants by another group of plants in an area over time. Species that are more tolerant to shade will naturally replace the species that are fast-growing and less shade tolerant.
Tree thinning mimics succession. In the City of Toronto, thinning will be implemented in the areas that were densely planted with a mix of sun and shade-loving trees. Short-lived, sun-loving trees such as poplars provided habitat for the growth of long living, shade-loving trees such as oaks and maples.
Once the long living species become well established, the short-living species are removed to reduce the competition for growing space and promote the growth of the shade-loving species.
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Cosmetic Pesticide Ban limits the use of pesticides by homeowners for cosmetic uses. There are exceptions for forestry management, arboriculture, health and safety, and natural resource management. Application of pesticides under these exceptions will require the services of a licensed exterminator.
The City of Toronto uses herbicides under the natural resources management exception to manage larger areas infested by aggressive invasive species that can’t be managed manually.
The City of Toronto uses two Class 9 pesticides regulated by the Pesticides Act.
Roundup Weathermax is the primary herbicide used by the City. It is considered non-toxic.
Garlon RTU is used for species that don’t respond to Roundup Weathermax. It is particularly good for roots. This herbicide can also be used in colder weather. It has a low-toxicity.
Coloured dye is mixed with the herbicides to indicate where it has been used. City staff will post signs indicating the area that has been treated. Please follow the instructions on the signs until they have been removed.
Pesticide use is regulated. Any use of pesticides (including herbicides) is prohibited in the city of Toronto and homeowners shall focus on manual methods of invasive species management.