Trees Ontario's Latest Training Program to Bridge the Looming Knowledge Gap in Ontario's Afforestation Sector

TORONTO, Dec. 7, 2012 /CNW/ - Trees Ontario has announced the launch of a new training program to address a severe knowledge-transfer gap threatening Ontario's afforestation sector. Thanks to a $112,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario, and support from RBC Foundation, Trees Ontario will work collaboratively on the Program for Local Afforestation Network Training (PLANT), an innovative mentorship-based training model aimed at students in post-secondary forestry programs.

"Restoration and conservation of our natural ecosystems through tree planting efforts are important strategies for enhancing biodiversity and reducing the impact and severity of climate change," said the Hon. Michael Gravelle, MPP and Minister of Natural Resources. "PLANT, the training program initiated by Trees Ontario, will ensure that the province has an accessible supply of knowledgeable and skilled professionals to accommodate Ontario's afforestation needs."

Due to the retirement of experienced forestry professionals and the lack of knowledge transfer strategies, Ontario is at risk of losing decades' worth of forestry knowledge. As well, the current forestry curriculum offered by Ontario's Colleges needs to be augmented with focused, supplemental training that's specific to southern Ontario's environment. Trees Ontario will work collaboratively on PLANT with Conservation Ontario, Stewardship Councils, Forest Gene Conservation Association and Sir Sandford Fleming College, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and Conservation Halton.

"The delivery of large-scale tree planting is a complex undertaking that is heavily dependent on the availability of and access to a strong network of professionals who possess the required knowledge and technical capacity," said Rob Keen, Trees Ontario's Chief Executive Officer and a Registered Professional Forester. "PLANT is the first province-wide program to proactively ensure that future forestry professionals have the practical skills and competence needed to address our forest restoration needs."

With Ontario's forests under constant pressure due to population growth, urban sprawl and environmental degradation, enhancing the province's tree planting infrastructure is timely and critical. Without adequate succession planning, the pending retirement of Ontario's forestry professionals will impact future planting initiatives, and ultimately the health and integrity of local ecosystems and communities.

Don Pearson, Conservation Ontario's General Manager, further emphasized the significance of this hands-on bridging program. "Skilled planters, seed forecasters, nursery staff, and skilled forestry practitioners are all necessary to sustain effective and efficiently managed tree planting efforts across Ontario," he noted. "PLANT will expose aspiring professionals to all facets of the industry, leading to more experienced graduates with higher technical aptitude."

With the PLANT curriculum rolling out during the second half of the 2012-2013 academic year, Trees Ontario will work with graduating forestry students attending Sir Sandford Fleming College. Students will be provided with in-class technical training facilitated by Trees Ontario's seasoned advisors and experts. A select group of students will also rotate through a series of mentoring opportunities and training placements with Trees Ontario's professional planting partners.

"We are particularly pleased to collaborate with Trees Ontario on this proactive initiative," said Gerald Guenkel, Forestry Program Coordinator, Sir Sandford Fleming College. "This unique program will serve as a complementary curriculum to current in-class modules which will prepare our students with the technical training required to successfully enter the workforce and become Ontario's future forest restoration leaders."

With support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, RBC Foundation and its planting partners, Trees Ontario's PLANT will play a major role in bridging the existing knowledge gap in order to establish larger and more contiguous forests through afforestation efforts across Ontario's settled landscape. Connecting forest corridors and increasing forest cover will not only enhance Ontario's resilience to climate change and protect the province's rich biodiversity, but will also improve the health of all Ontarians and create sustainable economic opportunities for future generations.

Download the Program for Local Afforestation Network Training report.

About Trees Ontario

Trees Ontario, the largest not-for-profit tree planting partnership in North America, is leading efforts to strengthen Ontario's tree planting infrastructure by enhancing the capacity of its tree planting partners through financial support and professional development expertise, delivering landowner incentives through cost offsetting and educating the public through awareness campaigns and community workshops. Trees Ontario is the lead delivery agent for the government of Ontario's 50 Million Tree Program. The program significantly cuts landowners' costs of large-scale tree planting and boosts the number of trees planted across the province. Visit www.treesontario.ca.

SOURCE: Trees Ontario

For further information:

To arrange media interviews, please contact:
Shelley McKay
Marketing and Communications Manager
Trees Ontario
e: smckay@treesontario.ca
p: 416-646-1193 ext. 232
c: 416-619-0783