Planting Tomorrow's Forests

Green Leader Mark Cullen undertakes ambitious restoration project

SCUGOG, ON, March 24, 2015 /CNW/ - Trees Ontario's newest Green Leader is no stranger to the environment. Mark Cullen, "Canada's Favourite Gardener", has tackled environmental projects since his childhood, after getting a firsthand education in the nursery business through his family's company, Weall and Cullen. These days, Mark is well-known for his work teaching Canadians to "think green", both through his website markcullen.com and through his high-profile appearances on outlets such as CTV, Canada AM, and the Toronto Star. It's this lifelong dedication to environmentalism that led Cullen to undertake a large-scale restoration project on his property in Scugog, Ontario.

The property, which had been in Mark's family since the spring of 1990, was originally envisioned as a site for growing nursery stock for resale. But after business interests shifted, the family rented out the property to a cash crop farmer to grow corn, soy beans and wheat. Yet, in the back of his mind, Mark always knew he wanted to plant trees on the property. After learning of the Ontario government's 50 Million Tree Program, Mark took action in the fall of 2012, developing a plan with Trees Ontario and Lands & Forests Consulting to plant over 42,000 trees across the property.

"The 50 Million Tree Program makes it so easy for landowners," says Cullen. "I paid a small percentage for the trees and planting, but all things considered, it's a bargain. If I knew it would have been so easy and inexpensive, I would have done it years ago."

Eleanor Reed of Lands & Forests Consulting, who oversaw the reforestation of the property, worked with Mark to develop a site-specific plan that catered to Mark's personal interests and was appropriate for the conditions of the land. All told, some 49 acres of land were planted and an ongoing forest management agreement was signed to ensure the future success of the trees. Today, nearly two years after the initial planting, the site now boasts an overall survival rate of 94.7%.

Beyond the success of the plant, Reed speaks fondly of the experience planting with such a forward-thinking landowner. "I've personally planted and supervised the planting of millions of trees," said Reed. "But, before the 50 Million Tree Program, I was never able to go back and see the trees that I've planted. It is immensely rewarding to monitor these sites over time. I couldn't do this without landowners like Mark who have a long-term vision for their land that includes restoring forests for everyone's benefit."

"Landowners like Mark Cullen are contributing to creating a healthy, sustainable environment for future generations," said Bill Mauro, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. "His efforts through the 50 Million Tree Program work to increase Ontario's overall forest cover and demonstrate exceptional environmental stewardship. He should be commended for his outstanding restoration efforts."

"Mark's outstanding contributions to tree planting across Ontario, both in rural and urban landscapes, serve as a positive example for other landowners," says Rob Keen, CEO of Forests Ontario. "Mark's ongoing stewardship is proof that each person can make choices that will benefit their communities and the province."

Cullen, however, credits his partnership with Trees Ontario and Lands & Forests for the success of the project. He humbly downplays his role as an environmental steward, instead noting that he just always believed that planting trees was the right thing to do, and something that gave him immense personal satisfaction. "As a landowner, you have a resource. I personally believe we have something to offer society environmentally, recreationally, and in terms of human health," says Cullen. "I had the opportunity to make this land more complex in a way that is more satisfying and valuable to me personally. I look forward to coming back to this land in 25 years to see what it has become."

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
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 Forests Ontario
Trees Ontario is the forest restoration arm of Forests Ontario. Forests Ontario was created in 2014 as a result of the merging of not-for-profit organizations Trees Ontario and the Ontario Forestry Association (OFA). 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. Forests Ontario and its 85 provincial partners work to protect, renew and manage forest resources through programs, services and advocacy. To learn more, please visit www.forestsontario.ca or follow us @Forests_Ontario.

SOURCE Forests Ontario

Image with caption: "Trees Ontario's Green Leader, Mark Cullen on his property in Scugog, Ontario. (CNW Group/Forests Ontario)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150324_C6115_PHOTO_EN_13509.jpg

For further information: photos or to arrange an interview please contact: Shelley McKay, Director of Communications & Development, Forests Ontario, 144 Front Street West, Suite 700, Toronto, ON, M5J 2L7, e: smckay@forestsontario.ca, p: 416-646-1193 ext. 232

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