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Vegetation Management and Tree Compensation Program

Planting new trees is an important part of the work Metrolinx does as it keeps the people of the Greater Golden Horseshoe moving.

In a built-up and growing region, some trees need to be removed to make room for new transit lines. To offset these removals, Metrolinx follows a detailed, science-based plan for planting new trees and keeping the region green.

Planting more trees

Overall, our practice is to plant more trees than we remove as we build new transit.

Metrolinx has developed a Vegetation Guideline that specifies how many trees need to be planted when any tree is removed, ranging from 1 to 50 new trees based on the size and location of the tree being removed. The Vegetation Guideline is used across our entire network to ensure more trees are planted than removed as we carry out the largest transit expansion in the history of the region.

Our goal is always to keep the number of trees we remove to a minimum and we strive to replace them in areas where they are being removed as early as we can.

Read the Metrolinx Vegetation Guideline.

Partnering to improve ecosystems

Our approach involves partnering with municipalities and conservation authorities across the region, and often goes above and beyond what’s required by local environmental regulations. While Metrolinx follows municipal bylaws when compensating for trees removed outside of Metrolinx lands, we provide additional compensation when trees are located in designated natural areas, such as ravines. For example, a large oak on the edge of a ravine might be replaced with 50 trees. This recognizes that the value of a mature tree is significantly more than a young one, and we plant to account for that. Our aim is always to enhance the health of local ecosystems and increase the vegetation cover in the region as we deliver greener transit options.

This strategy is based on the principles of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority Guideline for Determining Ecosystem Compensation, which looks at how a tree absorbs carbon and removes pollution so that trees planted to replace it provide the same or greater level of benefit to the ecosystem while also allowing the new trees time to grow. If our guideline recommends a higher replacement number compared to local regulations, we always work with municipal partners to plant according to our guideline.

Metrolinx also helps manage dead and hazardous trees and the growth of invasive plants and trees wherever possible, planting only native and pollinator species to help improve the health of local ecosystems.

Any time we have to remove trees, our plans are carefully studied by a qualified arborist and reviewed by our municipal partners and local conservation authorities.

Read the Toronto Region Conservation Authority Guideline for Determining Ecosystem Compensation.

How will you preserve sensitive ravine areas like the Don Valley and Small’s Creek in Toronto?

Metrolinx is working with the City of Toronto to coordinate improvements in local ravines as we deliver the GO Expansion and Ontario Line projects. This includes introducing measures to:

  • help prevent flooding;
  • manage the growth of invasive plant and tree species;
  • promote the growth of native trees;
  • restore wetlands to improve water quality in the Don River; and
  • close gaps within the trail system.

Metrolinx will work with the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and City of Toronto to ensure new plantings significantly outnumber removals in these designated natural areas.

Why can’t you move trees to new locations instead of cutting them down?

Transplanting a mature tree is possible but not often feasible because it tends to damage the roots and cause the tree to die, while the heavy trucks and equipment required can also damage the new area where it is being transplanted. Regardless of the time of year, it is difficult for mature trees to root properly into the new environment because of their size and age.

Can new trees be planted directly in areas from which they were removed?

Replacement trees and shrubs that do not fit on or around the project area are replanted in the same municipality or watershed area if space allows, or planted in nearby communities. Metrolinx works with conservation authorities and our municipal and regional partners to find areas that can support dense tree and vegetation cover. Our plans are informed by local environmental guidelines and ravine strategies, using trees and shrubs that are native to each area. To keep transit service along existing surface lines running safely and smoothly, Metrolinx typically requires several metres from the outside track to be clear of trees and vegetation.

What do you do with trees after you cut them down?

We work closely with conservation authorities and our municipal partners to repurpose the trees we need to remove in sustainable ways. Sometimes the wood is donated to communities for ecological and commercial uses such as local art and habitat restoration projects. We also partner with local college woodworking programs to mill the wood from suitable trees for other purposes.

If I live near a rail corridor, where can I plant a new tree or shrub?

If you are planning to plant a tree on your property and live near the rail corridor, you must consider how far back from the transit infrastructure is safe to plant your tree or shrub. Understanding the safe setback guidelines for planting avoids future complications associated with roots spreading as the tree grows, and branches and leaves growing into the rail corridor. You are encouraged to call the Ontario One Call line at 1-800-400-255 or visit ontarioonecall.ca to learn about the setback guidelines for your property.

Find out more

Read more about tree planting work on Metrolinx News.

If you have questions about our approach to managing trees and vegetation on a Metrolinx project being built close to you, please reach out to the Community Relations team in your area: