Forests Ontario

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The Regional Municipality of York’s Forestry and Public Health Partnership

Posted: January 12, 2017

Kevin Haley is an Environmental Health Specialist at York Region and one of the many presenters who will join us at our 2017 Conference

Kevin will be delivering a presentation on “Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities,” which will detail how York Region has undertaken efforts to not only promote the vital role of forests in making communities healthier, but develop new programs connecting the public to forests. Below is a backgrounder on the partnership. facebook-ad

Forests Ontario’s 2017 Conference will take place on February 10th at the Nottawasaga Inn in Alliston, Ontario. Join us for panels, discussions, networking sessions, and workshops with more than 300 forestry enthusiasts. Register today!


A growing body of evidence suggests that human health is closely associated with the health of our forest ecosystems. Studies have shown that trees and forests improve water quality and quantity, air quality and an individual’s physical and mental health. They also help to address climate change, reduce urban heat island effects, flood risks, energy consumption and the risk of developing chronic diseases. York Region manages 23 forest tracts that includes 2,300 hectares and maintains 43,000 street trees. Through the policies of the York Region Official Plan the Region is committed to both healthy communities and a sustainable natural environment.

A partnership between York Region forestry and public health was formed in 2012 to facilitate interdepartmental collaboration to promote and support the link between a healthy community and a healthy ecosystem, and to increase awareness among stakeholders. This partnership provides an opportunity for public health and forestry to collaborate to ensure the health benefits of forests are recognized, and programs and policies are developed to protect it.

The partnership has been successful at linking forestry and public health messaging through joint social media and published documents, connecting each other’s partners and networks, sharing resources and research, planning events, and providing support for each other’s initiatives.

Examples of joint initiatives include:

  • Monthly forestry themed events (i.e. geocaching, health benefits of walking in nature and Earth Week)

    Students in the York Regional Forest.

    Students in the York Regional Forest.

  • The Everyday Guide to the York Regional Forest
  • Urban Forest studies
  • Official Plan policies
  • Messaging for York Region’s backyard tree planting program
  • School, workplace, parenting and general focus e-newsletters articles
  • Greening our Community factsheet

With so many hectares of York Regional Forest open to the public, including accessible trails, it is an easy fit that public health and forestry collaborate to get people active, encourage environmental stewardship and recognize the benefits to air quality and climate change. We envision this partnership growing by working together on existing activities while focusing on new opportunities.

For more information visit: 


  • Kevin Haley, Environmental Health Specialist, Health Protection Division, Public Health Branch, Community and Health Services Department
  • Carol Karner, Public Health Nurse, Active Healthy Communities, Healthy Living Division, Public Health Branch, Community and Health Services Department
  • Barbara Davies, Greening Coordinator, Natural Heritage and Forestry, Environmental Services Department
  • Heidi Breen, Stewardship Specialist, Natural Heritage and Forestry, Environmental Services Department