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Trees Ontario First to Step Up with Tree Planting Goal in Support of Environmental Commissioner

December 29, 2010 – In September, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner confirmed what Trees Ontario has known and been working to address for a long time, southern Ontario has an urgent need for more trees – one billion to be precise. To help put Ontario on the path to achieving this goal, Trees Ontario is aggressively engaging landowners in these efforts by making them aware of the tree planting support and incentives available to them. Trees Ontario hopes this will translate into three million new trees planted in 2011 and even more in subsequent years.

“To achieve the minimum 30 percent forest cover and to rebalance our ecosystem, southern Ontario needs over a billion more trees,” said Robert H. Keen, RPF, Trees Ontario’s CEO. “Trees Ontario is the largest not-for-profit tree planting partnership in North America and is proud to be leading the charge to re-build tree planting levels towards the one billion tree goal.”

The goal seems daunting at first especially when annual tree planting rates have dramatically declined from the 1980’s peak of 30 million trees to as low as two million trees in the late1990’s. However, Ontario’s overall tree planting infrastructure is being re-established, and capacity – tree seedlings, planting partners and committed landowners – is growing.

Trees Ontario is now energizing and supporting Ontarians through the organization’s various tree planting activities and programs.  One program that it hopes will be the catalyst to reach the one billion tree mark is the Ontario government’s 50 Million Tree Program. The aim of this program is to plant 50 million trees by 2025 to help mitigate climate change and to re-green the province. Ontario’s commitment represents the largest pledge in North America to the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign, whose goal is to plant at least one billion trees worldwide each year.

“The 50 Million Tree Program is designed to significantly reduce the landowner’s tree planting costs and increase the demand for tree planting,” said Keen. “Trees mitigate climate change, increase property values and can potentially cut landowners taxes by up to 75 per cent – it’s a win-win-win proposition.”

This year, Trees Ontario reached a milestone – 10 million trees planted since 2004. This achievement is significant considering the time and degree of planning necessary to develop the infrastructure to produce and then plant 10 million tree seedlings. Tree seed needs to be collected from the species and in the quantities necessary to meet the future demand. Nurseries must then plant and care for them until they grow into seedlings. The seedlings are finally lifted from the nursery beds, packaged, delivered to the landowner or planting agency and subsequently planted as part of various planting projects. Sometimes it can take up to 4 years for a seed to become a seedling ready for planting. The 2011 goal is to plant 3 million trees and to eventually support the planting of 10 million trees per year by 2015.

“Trees are the lungs of the earth – they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They help clean our air, restore our watersheds, provide wildlife habitat and buffer against the effects of climate change,” added Keen. “All of us have a role to play in protecting the environment so that we can ensure a sustainable ecosystem and the health of Ontarians now and for our future generations.”

Ontario landowners are encouraged to contact Trees Ontario or their local planting agencies to discuss their eligibility for tree planting subsidies. They are also encouraged to attend upcoming workshops. Hosted by Trees Ontario and its partners, landowners can learn about tree planting techniques as well as the resources, support and incentives available to them.

With a billion more trees needed, everyone needs to be part of the solution to help Ontario reach that goal.