Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
FINCH — South Nation Conservation is gearing up for a record tree planting season with some 230,000 seedlings ordered for this spring.
Over the past 30 years, mostly in partnership with landowners, SNC has planted more than 3.2 million trees across its jurisdiction; the previous annual record was set in 2020 with 165,000 trees planted.
The program includes Community Free Tree Days encouraging SNC municipal partners to promote environmental stewardship, with all pandemic precautions taken to ensure safety during the outdoor giveaways in late April early May.
It fits right into the Natural Heritage Systems Study across the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and the United Counties of Prescott and Russell now being conducted by SNC as per provincial requirements to identify and preserve the diversity and connectivity of such systems.
Other partners include Raisin Region Conservation Authority. The goal is to ensure a “strong green infrastructure” connecting this region to neighbours in Ottawa, Leeds and Grenville, Quebec and New York State, forming a stronger landscape leading to a stronger legacy.
Focused on the SDG portion of the study, a live YouTube discussion about the project was held Tuesday night hosted by SNC senior staffers John Mesman and Alison McDonald. Beginning at 7 p.m., a second session will be offered tonight (Wednesday) with the emphasis on Prescott-Russell.
Tuesday’s session proved once again the value and efficiency of online meetings. The technically smooth Natural Heritage session drew up to 75 participants on a frosty mid-winter night when, arguably, a reality gathering would have enticed half as many.
The general public is being encouraged to become involved by attending meetings, taking part in a survey and reporting wildlife sightings. Since arrival of COVID-19 on the scene, interest of area residents in their natural surroundings has skyrocketed, with more than 177,000 visits of SNC conservation areas in 2020 compared to about 92,000 the previous year.
The two staff members outlined SNC’s land management and ecological data collecting role across the region while presenting parameters of the Natural Heritage Systems Study. SNC, they said, is well positioned to identify environmental planning opportunities, gaps, challenges and areas for clarification.
Mesman and McDonald emphasized that agriculture, which occupies much of the regional land mass, is a key, welcomed feature along with forests, wetlands, lakes and rivers. Maintaining wildlife habitat and corridors is a crucial component of the initiative.
The study and decisions arising from it are aimed primarily at fitting new development into interconnected natural features; already widely involved in environmental enhancement programs, agriculture won’t be impeded in any way.
During his presentation, Mesman mentioned the record tree planting being scheduled this spring. Each participating municipality has been allocated $500 in the 2021 SNC budget to support the wildly popular bundled seedling handouts at their offices; each municipality has the option of providing more funding to acquire additional seedlings.
Species selection will be available through online reservation and will be assigned on a first-come first-served basis. Bilingual planting instructions and factsheets for each species will also be available electronically. Going by last year’s success, tree reservations were completely allocated within two weeks of launching the free tree campaign.
The YouTube session allowed for written questions and comments from participants, some of which revolved around clear-cutting and whether SNC could limit it. McDonald emphasized that SNC has no regulatory authority in the matter and municipalities are responsible for implementing clear-cutting bylaws if they choose to do so.
Another questioner wanted to know if SNC can keep wind and solar farms from cluttering the landscape. Once again, SNC has no authority in the matter, McDonald stated.
She envisioned the day when man-made wildlife crossings will be installed as part of highway construction and features such as the decommissioned North Russell quarry, now a lake, will be protected under Natural Heritage provisions.
Watch the session, below.