White trilliums, The Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by NCC)

White trilliums, The Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by NCC)

Happy Valley Forest

White trilliums in Happy Valley Forest, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

White trilliums in Happy Valley Forest, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

The Happy Valley Forest is one of the largest intact upland deciduous forests on Canada's Oak Ridges Moraine. Located in King Township in the northwest of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), this 1,560-acre (631-hectare) area supports more than 110 breeding bird species. It is an outstanding example of the mature sugar maple and beech upland forests of the moraine.

The area's wetlands and upland forest are critical to the survival of nationally significant species, such as Acadian flycatcher and cerulean warbler. These habitats also provide an ideal home for many other plant and animal species, including a wide range of wildflowers and several salamander species. The forest was once located along the Toronto Carrying Place, a historic portage and travel route.

The Happy Valley Forest features all of the elements necessary to achieve old growth in the next 50 years. It is being conserved at a scale large enough to allow for natural disturbances. Wildfires, insect outbreaks, disease and severe storms can significantly impact the structure and composition of any landscape.

Because larger landscapes can accommodate the impact of natural disturbances, it is important to protect the Happy Valley Forest at this scale. Nowhere else on the western moraine or within the GTA is old-growth forest of this extent achievable.

Old-growth forests provide important functions in the ecosystem: they provide important habitat for plants and animals, sequester carbon, protect streams, and more. Old-growth forests act as a reservoir for biodiversity.

Over the past 30 years, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has helped protect more than 3,500 acres (1,400 hectares) on the Oak Ridges Moraine. Of this total, almost 773 acres (312 hectares) are in Happy Valley. NCC's long-term goal for the area is to raise enough funds and create partnerships to protect and manage a 700-acre (283-hectare) heritage forest. Under NCC's careful management, the core of the Happy Valley Forest will become a model for old-growth ecology and forest management in eastern North America.

Thanks to donations of land and  conservation agreements from local landowners, and funding from supporters of the Oak Ridges Moraine, NCC is well on its way to helping realize this dream.

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