BROCKVILLE, — The 2021 tree planting season has begun! Forests Ontario, a not-for-profit organization, and planting partners across the province are working to plant more than 2.8 million trees through its 50 Million Tree Program (50 MTP).
One of those partners, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA), will add more than 200,000 trees to the provincial total this year.
Tree planting, deemed an essential service in March 2020 by the Ontario government, is a time-sensitive business. “Unfortunately, tree seedlings are quite perishable and need to be planted soon after coming from the nursery — careful timing and fine-tuned logistics are required,” said Rob Keen, Registered Professional Forester and CEO of Forests Ontario.
Learning from the experiences of the past year, RVCA has implemented several COVID-related health and safety protocols to protect its staff, partners, and the public. Ian Cochrane, Forestry Program Manager for RVCA, says these procedures have been well-received. “Everyone in the sector, from nurseries to contractors, have been cooperative.” Best practices include travelling to sites in separate vehicles, limiting landowner contact, implementing physical distancing, ensuring the use of personal protective equipment, and keeping the number of planters on site to a minimum.
RVCA began planting on April 19th and will likely continue well into May. Crews are at work across 22 sites in the watershed, planting White Pine, Red Pine, White Cedar, White Spruce, and Tamarack, among other species. Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Red Oak, and Bur Oak are also popular.
RVCA is seeing more demand to increase forest cover on private land than ever before. “Last year we had 100 applicants for the 50 MTP. This year, we have 130 landowners interested in planting trees,” said Cochrane.
Cochrane said landowners have many motivations to plant trees. “Property owners with fallow or unproductive land that is being taken over by invasives want to see that land converted into forest. Some people want to plant trees to create habitat for animals or a windbreak. Still others are interested in taking advantage of a reduction in taxes through the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP).” But one motivation is consistent: “People want to save the world! With current concerns around climate change, people are looking at their land and doing an inventory of what they can give back.”
Since 2008, more than 1.4 million trees have been planted in Leeds and Grenville through Forests Ontario’s 50 MTP, and more than 31 million trees provincewide. The program provides financial and technical assistance to landowners who wish to plant a minimum of 500 trees on their property. Forests Ontario also offers an Over-The-Counter program for landowners and organizations who are unable to meet the minimum tree requirement of the 50 MTP. These programs aim to increase forest cover in the province in order to multiply the many benefits trees provide.
“The 50 MTP benefits landowners and their communities immensely,” explained Keen. “This program pays for an average of 75 to 90 per cent of tree planting costs for eligible landowners. Some landowners may even qualify for the MFTIP, under which they pay just 25 per cent of the municipal tax rate for residential forest properties.”
Each year, Forests Ontario’s network of planting partners work closely with local landowners to develop individual site plans and select native tree species that satisfy their specific vision. This can include flood protection, shading a house, creating a windbreak, helping pollinators, providing a habitat or a path for animals to travel between forested areas, boosting local ecosystems, and more.
As of June 2019, the 50 MTP is supported by the Canadian government, corporate sponsors and donors.
Organizers point out it’s never too early to think about planting for next spring! Apply now to be added to the waitlist for the 2022 planting season by visiting www.forestsontario.ca/en/program/50-million-tree-program.