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A date, a promise made and kept, and a Trees Ontario Green Leader emerges

TORONTO, Aug. 27 /CNW/ – It was 1973 and Ron Klages from Chesley, ON (near Owen Sound) was on a date. They drove past a field filled with glistening bales of straw. Although stark in appearance, there was something about this particular location that caught his eye and captured his imagination. At that moment, he turned to his date Georgina, who would later become his wife and said, “We are going to own this land one day.”

Klages grew up on grain and wheat farms. As a young boy, he liked to hunt, which fuelled his love for forests and wildlife. Over time he noticed less wildlife and more crop land in the area. “I never understood why people thought there was value in cropping poor land,” says Klages. “There is so much more value that can be derived from using your land to grow trees.”

“There are so many benefits to planting trees, like adding beauty to enjoy and increasing property value, creating privacy from neighbours, contributing environmental benefits to the area and providing a natural habitat for wildlife.”

When Klages bought his first farm, he immediately planted 20 acres of trees. He sold that property and moved to a larger farm where he planted another 30 acres of trees. Within four years of selling both farms, all the trees had been cut down and ploughed over.

When the opportunity came to buy that first farm that had caught his eye, Klages jumped at the chance to restore the natural habitat and bring back the wildlife while creating a lasting legacy for his family and the Chesley community.

With more than 450 acres of land to plant, the Klages investigated tree planting programs. Their research led them to the many programs offered by Trees Ontario, including the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ 50 Million Tree Program. This program offers eligible landowners hands-on professional help and advice from local tree planting agencies which will determine site eligibility, allocate funding and coordinate planting.

“It’s a great program and I’m so happy to see the Ontario government is encouraging people to help fight climate change by planting trees,” said Klages.

In Chesley, the local planting agency is Lands and Forests Consulting, which worked with the Klages at every step of the tree planting process. “The folks at Lands and Forests Consulting were great to work with. They came out to my property, discussed my needs, made recommendations on the types of trees to plant, managed and executed the planting and took care of the subsidies,” said Klages. “It ended up costing me $0.15 a tree. For the price alone, you’d be a fool not to plant acres of trees, especially if you have tough or poor agricultural land.”

Now that their tree planting is complete, Ron and Georgina look forward to watching the seedlings become a magnificent forest filled with White Cedar, White and Red Pine, Norway Spruce, and White and Red Oak. More importantly, they are both excited about the legacy they will be leaving for their children and grandchildren.

Klages estimates that he has planted about half a million trees in his lifetime. As a result of his commitment to making Ontario a greener place to live both now and in the future, Klages has been designated as a Trees Ontario Green Leader. This program was created by Trees Ontario to recognize landowners that have made a significant commitment to tree planting and environmental stewardship as part of the Ontario government’s 50 Million Program.

“To this day, I am amazed at how many people have never planted trees,” said Klages. “If people only knew how easy it is to do, the great incentives available and the environmental benefits, we’d live in a much greener place.”

His land is planted to capacity but the drive to plant more has him thinking of purchasing 200-400 more acres. You can bet if he does, it won’t be long before that land is full of tree seedlings forming the start of a new forest.