Friends of the Rouge Watershed Logo

Priority Forest Restoration

Summer, 2003 view of upland reforestation
site planted by FRW in 1998.

Watersheds with less than 30% forest cover tend to have degraded water quality, bacterial problems and lower quality habitat for fish, wildlife and people.

In 1800, British surveyors found 95% of the Rouge River Watershed covered in old growth forests. At this time, Rouge streams were full of Atlantic salmon and brook trout and people could dip their cup into streams and lakes for a pure, safe drink of water.

Today, less than 4% forest cover remains in Markham and less than 10% forest cover remains in Scarborough. Atlantic salmon are locally extinct; brook trout have retreated to a few headwater streams; the Rouge Beach is regularly closed; and many people are afraid to drink even treated water from Lake Ontario.  

Drastic forest removal triggers many other negative effects including:

  • increased runoff, flooding, soil erosion and property damage (e.g. Hurricane Hazel);
  • reduced filtration and oxygenation of air and reduced air quality;
  • loss of floral and faunal diversity (biodiversity); 
  • loss of jobs associated with sustainable forest use (e.g. lumber and furniture mills);
  • loss of landscape beauty and associated loss of recreation and tourism potential.

Fortunately, these impacts can be partially reversed over time, by forest regeneration on public and private lands. 

Through the “Restoration of Priority Rouge Park Sites” project, FRW is helping the Rouge Park to restore native forest vegetation and expand and reconnect environmentally sensitive forest areas (ESAs) and nature reserves.

The adjacent map shows restoration sites within the Rouge Park south of Steeles Avenue (light green) and sites being restored to native vegetation by FRW (dark green).

Status of Rouge Park's Priority
Restoration Sites. Click to enlarge.

Each year, FRW’s “Restoration of Priority Rouge Park Sites” project accomplishes:

  • Upland Forest Regeneration – 18 hectares (ha) are planted with 30,000 native trees, shrubs and flowers;
  • Restore Riparian Vegetation – 500 metres adjacent to small streams and valleys are planted;
  • Public Awareness, Education – 50 Nature walks are conducted to increase Rouge awareness;
  • Volunteer Involvement – More than 2,500 youth and community volunteers are involved in plantings and other activities;
  • Wetland Creation – 10 amphibian ponds are created to enhance over half a hectare;
  • Meadow Regeneration – One hectare of native wildflower meadows is restored;
  • Nesting Structures – 30 nesting boxes are constructed for birds of concern;
  • Habitat Structures – 120 habitat structures are built for fauna;
  • Species at Risk – Rare species are planted and habitat is created for them;
  • Bio-monitoring – Amphibians, butterflies, birds and mammals are monitored;
  • Debris Clean-up – 100 bags of unsightly litter are removed from the Park;
  • Invasive Species Removal – Over 2,000 invasive plants are removed to protect native flora;
  • Rouge Park Promotion – Rouge Park posters and information  are presented to 25 Schools;
  • Site Maintenance – Three to five students are hired to water, weed and maintain sites;
  • Enhanced Hydrology – Groundwater recharge and stream base flow are improved;
  • Promote Natural Succession – 50 kg of native tree and wildflower seeds are collected.

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