Naturalizing York and Durham Regions with Native Trees and Shrubs


Toronto, ON - This year, the non-profit organization LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) planted over 2200 native trees and shrubs on public lands across York and Durham Regions, made possible with support from Ontario Power Generation’s Regional Biodiversity Program.

Through 11 community planting events in Richmond Hill, Markham and Oshawa, LEAF engaged hundreds of volunteers to convert land that was previously covered by turf, occupied by invasive species or otherwise of limited biodiversity value, into viable habitat for birds, pollinators and other wildlife.

Furthermore, Ontario Power Generation supported LEAF’s stewardship efforts at previously naturalized sites. Over the last two years, more than 80 volunteers committed 246 hours and removed a total of 78 bags of invasive species plant material from public lands. Since invasive species interfere with the growth of young native plants by competing for water, nutrients and space, stewardship is an important and necessary step in ensuring that naturalized sites remain successful in the long-term.

In addition to community planting and stewardship events this year, LEAF distributed 500 native shrubs to homeowners across the GTA. This project recognizes that public lands alone cannot transform the health of the urban ecosystem, and that shifting residential plantings to native species is important for increasing biodiversity, improving ecological health and ensuring urban landscapes are more resilient to climate change.

Not only will these naturalization and stewardship efforts help to increase biodiversity, but local community members will also benefit. Having access to trees and green spaces has been linked to improved mood and health, higher property values and much more. Community members can also join LEAF’s volunteer program to participate in future planting and stewardship activities.

To learn more about this project or for ways to become involved, visit

Additional funding and in-kind support for this work is provided by the City of Richmond Hill, The Regional Municipality of York, Trees for Life and Ontario Trillium Foundation.


“Planting more native trees and shrubs on public lands is critically important because local wildlife and local plant species co-evolved here and depend on each other to thrive. Managing and stewarding newly planted land is equally important, because invasive plants, if left unchecked, will outcompete newly planted native species. By both planting and stewarding, LEAF is helping make the urban forest healthier and more resilient, as well as providing essential food and shelter that wildlife needs. Our planting locations are carefully chosen in parks or adjacent to existing woodlands, so that the extended tree canopy and increased biodiversity can be enjoyed by the public."
-    Brian Millward, Community Programs Manager at LEAF

“Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is committed to protecting biodiversity across the province of Ontario, and through our partnerships with conservation organizations like LEAF, we can protect our natural assets and enhance areas that need a little extra support. Removing invasive species and planting native trees and shrubs are just a few of the ways we can all help Ontario’s landscape thrive.”
-    Ashley Fox, Associate Environmental Advisor, Ontario Power Generation.


Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF):
Justin Lewis, Marketing and Communications Lead
(416) 413-9244 or

Ontario Power Generation:
Ashley Fox, Assistant Environmental Advisor – Corp. Environment, Health & Safety
Cell: 905-914-5109 or