Trees Ontario's Newest Green Leader creates an Alternative to Cottage Country

TORONTO, Jan. 12, 2012 /CNW/ - John Haak has been named a Trees Ontario Green Leader for his dedication to tree planting.

Trees Ontario's Green Leader Program recognizes landowners who have worked with our partners to take part in the Ontario government's 50 Million Tree Program, which will see 50 million trees planted in southern Ontario by 2020.

Ian Jean, Forestry and Stewardship Specialist for Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority, nominated Haak after working with him on his site. "John has gone beyond tree planting and has restored several acres of wetland and tallgrass prairie habitat on land he retired at the back of his farm," said Jean.

Trees Ontario recently visited Haak on his property near Clinton, Ontario. The previous owner had planted trees before Haak bought the property 13 years ago. "I just continued on where he left off," explains Haak.

Since 2008, Haak has planted approximately 6,000 trees. When he purchased the property, it was comprised of 30 acres of bush and 70 acres of marginal farmland. Now, they have 20 acres of workable land and the rest is made up of trees, native prairie grass and six wetlands. The trees are a diverse mix of spruce, white pine, red oak, maple, sugar maple, black cherry and tamarack. Haak, who grew up on a farm, works at the Sifto Salt Mine, in nearby Goderich, and rents out the marginal farmland to nearby farmers.

In the past, Haak covered the costs of tree planting himself. A few years ago, however, he heard about the 50 Million Tree Program and contacted Ian Jean, who let him know about the subsidies and support available for tree planting.

"Ian Jean did a lot of work here," says Haak. "He comes down to do site visits and enjoys what I have done here."

Haak has since participated twice in the 50 Million Tree Program, and credits the Conservation Authority's help in making the process easy. He plans to make use of the Program again in Spring 2012. His property has been employed as an educational tool by conservation authorities and universities.

"There's a variety of habitats. There's ducks, turkeys, deer, birds. I have really diversified here and I think that's made a huge difference," adds Haak. "We see a different variety of bird species now compared to what we saw before."

Haak has some advice to other landowners who are interested in planting trees: "For marginal land or areas you want to plant, it is a good program and covers a lot of the costs."

"Whether it's 2.5 acres or a half acre, it is all important," he adds.  "I think trees are an important component of the landscape."

"Planting trees helps us create a healthier environment. It cleans the air, helps fight the impacts of climate change, increases wildlife habitat, provides shade and helps prevent flooding," said Michael Gravelle, Minister of Natural Resources. "I applaud Mr. Haak for the work he is doing and I encourage others to take part in the 50 Million Tree Program to help protect Ontario's natural beauty."

"We appreciate all of the landowners who take part in our programs. But it is worth commemorating these Green Leaders for their local stewardship and support for the environment," said Rob Keen, Trees Ontario CEO.

"I'm an outdoors person so I enjoy hunting and walking through the bush. I like nature," says Haak. He enjoys riding his bike through the trails or rides his horse through the property.

"I always wanted a property up north but that's not feasible for us. Rather than have a cottage or recreational land up north, I just did it in my backyard and can use it everyday now," Haak said. "You don't have to fight traffic to get here."

Trees Ontario is the lead agency for the Ontario government's 50 Million Tree program, which provides financial incentives to landowners looking to plant trees. It also provides eligible landowners with hands-on professional help and advice on tree planting including determining site eligibility, allocating funding and coordinating planting. For more information about the 50 Million Tree Program and other tree planting programs and incentives available to Ontario landowners, please click here.

Working with its partners, Trees Ontario planted nearly 3 million trees in 2011. Our goal is to support the planting of 10 million trees per year by 2015. To help put Ontario on the path to achieving this goal, Trees Ontario is seeking landowners to participate in its programs.

Image with caption: "John Haak, a Trees Ontario Green Leader, on his Clinton-area property. (CNW Group/Trees Ontario)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20120112_C3464_PHOTO_EN_8831.jpg

SOURCE Trees Ontario

For further information:

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact:
Debbie Silva
Communications and Events Coordinator, Trees Ontario
1.877.646.1193 ext. 237
dsilva@treesontario.ca

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