50 Million Tree Program Grows its Reach to Northern Ontario

Program's tree planting subsidies now available to increase economic and recreation opportunities

TORONTO, Sept. 10, 2014 /CNW/ - Trees Ontario, the forest restoration arm of Forests Ontario, today announced the expansion of the Ontario government's 50 Million Tree Program into northern Ontario. Until recently, the program focused its efforts on regions in southern Ontario with goals of re-greening settled landscapes and helping to fight climate change. Since the program's inception in 2008, Trees Ontario has planted more than 15 million trees with an ultimate goal of planting 50 million trees by 2025.

The expansion kicked off on May 23rd with the first northern tree plant in Desbarats, Ontario at the Archibald Homestead. Led by Brent Attwell at REGEN Forestry with full support by the Kensington Conservancy, the plant saw volunteers, including elementary students from Johnson-Tarbutt Central School in Debarats, plant 2,000 trees on the property. This event was followed by a larger planting effort over the following days that achieved a total of 10,500 trees planted overall. The plant sought to restore abandoned agricultural land at the Homestead to support conservation and restoration efforts in regions maintained by the Conservancy.

"We are always excited to see so many come out to re-green their communities," said Rob Keen, Trees Ontario CEO. "Since the beginning of the 50 Million Tree program, we've had thousands of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds join us across dozens of communities. Now that the program has expanded its reach, we hope to bring together more Ontarians, especially our youth, in creating a greener and healthier future for all of us."

Among the planters was Peter Gagnon, Trees Ontario's newest Field Advisor supporting Forests Ontario's northern Ontario programs. Gagnon indicated that the program's extended reach may take time to develop, but that growth will ultimately benefit the province, noting, "It is exciting to be able to implement the 50 Million Tree Program across the province and promote forest stewardship on a larger scale."

The task ahead is to work with local forestry consultants to identify potential planting delivery agents (PDAs), such as conservation authorities, forestry consultants and local municipalities, to assist with project delivery. The PDAs, in turn, will help to connect with potential landowners who qualify for planting subsidies under the program. Reception thus far has been very positive and Gagnon confirms that new PDAs have already agreed to take part in areas such as Dryden and Timmins.

Many regions in northern Ontario have significant areas of under-utilized marginal farmland that may be suitable for restoration, including Manitoulin Island, New Liskeard, Fort Frances, Thunder Bay and Dryden. "Significant tree planting subsidies provided by the 50 Million Tree Program can help landowners increase property value, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat, among other benefits," says Gagnon.

Bill Mauro, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, welcomed the expansion of the 50 Million Tree Program into northern Ontario as a major step forward in achieving the Ministry's overall goals. Mauro remarked, "We are committed to protecting and expanding Ontario's rich biodiversity. Our forests are crucial as they help fight climate change, clean the air, increase wildlife habitat and prevent floods. Our Government will continue to work with Trees Ontario to help grow Ontario's forests."

Ultimately, the program's growth will contribute to Trees Ontario's ongoing efforts to promote forest stewardship and support sound forest management practices on private lands. Together with the government of Ontario, Trees Ontario will now administer the 50 Million Tree Program across the entire province with a goal to support healthy and sustainable forests.

For more information about the 50 Million Tree Program and other tree planting programs, as well as local tree planting workshops, visit: http://www.treesontario.ca/programs/#50MILL

About 50 Million Tree Program (50MTP)

Trees Ontario administers the Ontario government's 50 Million Tree Program, part of the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign. The United Nations' goal is to plant one billion trees worldwide each year. Ontario is committed to plant 50 million trees by 2025.

The goals of the program are to sequester carbon, enhance and diversify southern Ontario's landscape, increase the capacity to withstand climate change, and increase wildlife habitat. The 50 Million Tree Program is designed to signi­ficantly reduce the costs to landowners of large-scale tree planting and thereby increase the number of trees planted across the province.

About Trees Ontario

Trees Ontario is the forest restoration arm of Forests Ontario. Forests Ontario is committed to the re-greening of Ontario through tree planting efforts on rural lands and in urban areas, as well as the renewal and stewardship of Ontario's forests through restoration, education and awareness. Visit www.treesontario.ca or follow us @Forests_Ontario.

Image with caption: "Peter Gagnon, Trees Ontario Field Advisor works with volunteers to plant trees (CNW Group/Trees Ontario)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140910_C2498_PHOTO_EN_5504.jpg

SOURCE: Trees Ontario

For further information: photos or to arrange an interview please contact: Shelley McKay, Director of Communications & Development, e: smckay@forestsontario.ca, p: 416-646-1193 ext. 232, c: 416-619-0783

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