Trees Ontario's Latest Green Leader, an Essex County Farmer, Restores his Family Property to its Ecological Roots

Trees Ontario Green Leaders, Joe and Joyce Hickson, in their remnant Carolinian forest (CNW Group/Trees Ontario)

TORONTO, Nov. 14, 2012 /CNW/ - As you head to the back 40 of Joe and Joyce Hickson's property, you are surrounded by unique topography, original forests and newly planted trees. The Hicksons make it difficult to believe you are in Essex County.

Mr. Hickson is the latest Ontario landowner to be recognized as a Trees Ontario Green Leader. This program recognizes landowners who have taken part in the Ontario government's 50 Million Tree Program, which aims to plant 50 million trees in southern Ontario. The program, administered by Trees Ontario, provides subsidies and technical support to landowners who wish to plant trees on 2.5 acres or more of land.

Joe and Joyce Hickson have supported Trees Ontario's mandate to increase the forested landscape of Ontario's private lands. They worked with Trees Ontario's local partner, the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), to plant 23,450 trees on their 88.5 acre property located in the Muddy Creek watershed within the Municipality of Leamington.

"Using traditional and alternative afforestation methods, we were able to plant many native tree species including tulip, sassafras, black gum, American chestnut, American beech, cottonwood, sycamore and red cedar," said Robert Davies, Forestry Technician for the ERCA.  Davies and other ERCA members including Kate Arthur, ERCA's restoration biologist, helped Mr. Hickson with on the ground professional help and technical expertise at every step of the project.

The Hickson property, a farmland that was previously used to support him and his family through the Great Depression, enjoys a long history in the Hickson bloodline starting with his great grandfather. Joe's father initiated planting efforts with Lands and Forests in the 1930s and since then, Joe Hickson has had a passion for trees. Upon retiring from a long farming career, Joe decided to do what any steward of the land would do, restore it to its natural state.

"The 50 Million Tree Program is successful because of landowners like the Hicksons who are looking to reforest all or some of their property that may no longer maintain the necessary conditions for crops, or areas that are no longer being used to their full potential," noted Rob Keen, CEO of Trees Ontario. "We encourage other landowners to take advantage of the available subsidies to plant trees and restore their lands."

The benefits that Mr. Hickson has noticed, as a result of the planting program, have been the return of diverse local wildlife including foxes and wild turkeys, increased dragonfly populations, prairie grasses and wildflowers. His efforts have also contributed to the restoration and delisting of the Muddy Creek watershed from being an area of concern.

"Planting large numbers of trees helps fight climate change, cleans the air, increases wildlife habitat, and prevents flooding," said the Honourable Michael Gravelle, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources. "The Hicksons should be recognized for their outstanding contribution to enhancing forest cover—they truly deserve the title of Trees Ontario's Green Leaders."

Mr. Hickson is a real and life-long steward of the land, "I want to leave it better than I received it." His advice to other landowners, "Go ahead - it is a great hobby. It is a lot of work but it's worth it. I love trees and I enjoy watching the forest mature."

With this much history, so many fascinating stories and a large-scale planting endeavor, this Hickson property will live on and provide many benefits to Joe, Joyce, their growing family and so many of us in Ontario.

For more information about the government of Ontario's 50 million Tree Program and local planting workshops to help you get started, visit: http://www.treesontario.ca/programs.

Image with caption: "Trees Ontario Green Leaders, Joe and Joyce Hickson, in their remnant Carolinian forest (CNW Group/Trees Ontario)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20121114_C8004_PHOTO_EN_20600.jpg

SOURCE: Trees Ontario

For further information:

photos or to arrange an interview please contact:

Shelley McKay
Marketing and Communications Manager
Trees Ontario
e: smckay@treesontario.ca
p: 416-646-1193 ext. 232