Forests Ontario

About Forests Ontario

Board of Directors

Steve Hounsell, President

Steve Hounsell is a retired biologist (University of Guelph) who spent his career with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the former Ontario Hydro, where he managed their biodiversity programs. He was responsible for the development and implementation of a biodiversity policy, the first of its kind in the electricity industry. He also developed and managed an award-winning program linking climate change mitigation and adaptation with biodiversity management.
Steve, an ardent supporter of sustainability and the conservation of biodiversity, is also the Chair of the Ontario Biodiversity Council and a founding director of the Canadian Business and Biodiversity Council. Steve is a Past President of Ontario Nature, a past director of the Algonquin to Adirondacks Collaborative and a founding director of The Natural Step Canada.


Malcolm Cockwell, Vice President

Malcolm Cockwell is the Managing Director of Haliburton Forest, a multi-use private land stewardship company responsible for more than 100,000 acres in central Ontario. Malcolm oversees diverse land operations, including an integrated Forest Products division, and the Tourism & Recreation division. In addition to his work at Haliburton Forest, he is a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) and represents Haliburton Forest at the Ontario Forest Industries Association. He holds a B.Sc. in Forestry from the University of Toronto, and is a PhD candidate at the same institution’s Faculty of Forestry.


Riet Verheggen, Secretary 

Riet Verheggen started her forestry career in 1979 as a tree-planter with the Ministry of Natural Resources.  She completed an H.BSc in Forestry in 1982. Riet went on to be Director of the Industry Relations Branch of the Ontario Government in 2000, and became the first female President of the Ontario Professional Foresters Association that same year. She would later accept the role Director of the Forest Management Branch, and represented Ontario in the international ‘softwood lumber disputes.’

In 2004, she moved from Sault Ste. Marie to Toronto in order to lead negotiations of the bilateral Canada/Ontario Immigration Agreement. She directed the development of Ontario’s first immigration strategy, created Ontario’s pilot Provincial Nominee Program, and developed the internship program for Internationally-trained individuals within Ontario Public Service. Riet became the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Pay and Benefits Services Division in 2008, leading an organization of 300 professionals until her retirement in 2016.


Michael Klasner, Treasurer

Michael Klasner received an HBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University in 2004.  After a stint at the prestigious Price Waterhouse, Michael took a Senior Associate position at accounting firm PwC from 2006 to 2009. Pursuant to that role, in 2009, Michael began working as an accountant and financial analyst for software company Klasner, Solomon & Partners. In 2012, he took on the role of Senior Financial Analyst at Cougar Software until 2015. Michael has also managed land in the Algonquin area for Harcourt Timber Holdings Ltd, where he developed budgets and implemented revised hunting and fishing practices.


Gail Beggs 

Gail Beggs, former Deputy Minister with the Ontario Public Service, has provided leadership to the Ministries of Environment, Natural Resources, and the Ontario Secretariat for Aboriginal Affairs. From 1990 to 1995, Gail was Commissioner and Chair of the Board for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. She was a board member and Chair of the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) and from 2001 to 2002, and President and CEO of OCWA. A graduate of the University of Toronto with Bachelor and Master of Science, Gail has championed the transfer of science into public policy. Currently, Gail is a member of the Board of Directors of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, the Board of the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario, and the Board of Trustees of Forests Ontario.



Kim Gavine

Kim Gavine has been in the field of Natural Heritage for more than 25 years, with a focus on land securement, land management and private land stewardship. Her career began with the role of Environmentalist with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (now Ontario Nature). Subsequent roles included that of Urban Wildlife Biologist for the Ministry of Natural Resources, and Natural Heritage Coordinator with the Ontario Heritage Foundation (OHF).  Kim took part in the Severn Sound Remedial Action Plan–as a Biologist–studying the effects of lead poisoning in Trumpeter Swans. She was Executive Director of the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation from 2007 until 2013, when she joined Conservation Ontario in the role of General Manager.


Robert (Bob) Hyland

Dr. Robert Hyland is a recently retired physician and Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He has a longstanding passion for environmental issues. He and his wife bought a farm in 1979, on which his family has planted over 10,000 trees. As a respirologist, he is especially interested in the link between pollution and disease—notably asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

Dr. Hyland began teaching at the University of Toronto in 1978. He was actively involved in clinical research, and published 84 peer-reviewed scientific papers. His professional appointments have included President of the Ontario Thoracic Society and the Canadian Thoracic Society, and Governor for the Province of Ontario for the American College of Chest Physicians. Dr. Hyland has been the recipient of many awards including the Queen Elizabeth 11 Silver Jubilee medal for his work at the Ontario Thoracic Society, the Council Award of the Ontario Medical Association, the Wightman award of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and the Jeffery Lozon Physician Leadership Award at St. Michael’s Hospital.


Christine Leduc

Christine’s earliest experience with programs of Forests Ontario was in 2005, when she was an Ontario Envirothon Regional Champion. From that, she gained firsthand knowledge of the power that connecting youth to nature has in influencing fields of study. Christine obtained a Bachelor of Sciences and a Master of Forest Conservation from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Forestry. As a student, she volunteered with Forests Ontario’s team. Upon graduating from the UofT’s MFC program, she held policy positions in the office of the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and the Ontario Forest Industries Association. With big aspirations for Canada’s forest sector, Christine currently works as the Director of Public Affairs with EACOM Timber Corporations, a Canadian wood products company. In 2015, Christine was a recipient of the Prince of Wales Award for Sustainable Forestry and the Ontario Professional Foresters Association Fernow Award. Christine is a member of the advisory council for the It Takes a Forest campaign.


David Sisam

David Sisam is a founding Principal of Montgomery Sisam Architects in Toronto and a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. David has a particular focus on issues of health and sustainability with respect to both architecture and urbanism. Among the firm’s award winning projects is the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority’s Restoration Services Building, an all wood structure that was the first LEED Platinum certified building in eastern Canada. More recently, David has been examining aspects of a healthy and sustainable city, giving numerous lectures on the subject at a variety of venues including the Green Building Festival and the International Academy of Health and Design.

David was an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Architecture from 1972 to 1983, a visiting instructor at Dalhousie University, and a visiting critic at the University of Waterloo, Ryerson, and SUNY Buffalo. He currently sits on the City of Toronto Design Review Panel and on the Advisory Committee to the Toronto Society of Architects Executive.

David’s father, J.W.B. (Bernie) Sisam, was one of the “giants” in the field of forestry in Ontario, and a former Dean at the Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto. 


Bonny Skene

Bonny Skene is a passionate advocate for the Canadian lumber and wood products industries with almost 25 years working in the sector. She grew up in Dryden, Ontario, before moving to Toronto; she returned to her hometown several years later. Bonny holds a Master of Business Education from the University of North Dakota and an ICD.D from the ICD Rotman Directors Education Program.

Bonny is the Regional Public Affairs Manager for Domtar (Canada), one of the largest manufacturers of pulp in the world. In this role, she is responsible for the development and execution of public affairs and government relations strategies. Prior to Domtar, she worked as Ontario Public Affairs Manager for Weyerhaeuser Company Limited. Bonny is Chairperson for the Dryden Health Services Foundation and also serves as Director for the Thunder Bay Port Authority.

Bonny joined Forests Ontario’s Board of Directors in February of 2017 and is a proud supporter of the It Takes a Forest initiative.


Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson is a pioneer in shaping corporate sustainability, known for integrating environmental risks and opportunities into business practices and products.  Peter has worked across many sectors, developing and implementing business-centric programs around sustainability, climate change, risk management, CSR, stakeholder and employee engagement, metrics and reporting.

Currently, Peter works on Environmental and Social Risk within Global Risk Management at Scotiabank’s headquarters in Toronto. Peter was the first certified sustainable forest management (SFM) auditor in North America and holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from the University of Toronto and a Master of Science in Forestry from Lakehead University.


CEO – Robert H. Keen, RPF

In 2014, Rob Keen assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of Forests Ontario (the merged organization of Trees Ontario and Ontario Forestry Association) after serving as CEO of Trees Ontario since 2011.

Rob is a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) who founded a forestry consultant business upon graduating with a BScF from the University of Toronto in 1982. He has been involved in many facets of the forestry industry, primarily in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence forest region. Rob has provided forestry services to landowners, developed forest management plans on Crown and private lands, conducted wood supply and feasibility studies, led forest audits for the Forest Stewardship Council and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and fulfilled numerous silvicultural contracts with the MNR.

Rob has been an active member of the Ontario Professional Foresters Association since 1985, where he served as vice-president for two terms. He was a director and chair of the Algonquin Forestry Authority, Director for Maple Leaves Forever Foundation, Invasive Species Centre and President of the Ontario Forestry Association.

Rob is now leading the Forests Ontario team in the promotion and support of sustainable forestry across Ontario and Canada.