ECHO BAY - Forests are vital to everyone from hikers to hunters, says a local farmer who is pleased that the Government of Canada is supporting tree planting on private land in Ontario.
“I have always been an outdoorsman,” said Trent Massey, who worked with Forests Ontario to plant 5,500 trees on seven acres of his 30-acre farm. “I hunt and I fish. If there’s no forest, there are no animals.”
Forests Ontario has announced new support for its 50 Million Tree Program (50 MTP), a large-scale tree planting program that cuts planting costs for property owners. The goal of the 50 MTP is to increase forest cover in Ontario.
“The 50 MTP is better and more accessible than ever,” said Rob Keen, CEO of non-profit charity, Forests Ontario. “The program criteria has changed, allowing us to get more trees in the ground. It’s a win-win for property owners and for the environment.”
Under the new criteria, property owners with room to plant a minimum of 500 trees can apply. The revised program creates more opportunity for urban and suburban tree planting.
Massey lost the use of his legs 20 years ago in a motorcycle accident. His wife, Chantal, typically helps him into his hydrostatic tractor, which he operates with his arms. Massey tilled the ground prior to the tree-planting. Crews planted White Spruce, Jack Pine, White Cedar, Norway Spruce and poplar trees on the farm, in fields, on fencerows and along his driveway. Massey mows between the rows of saplings twice a year, to keep down competition from grass and weeds.
“In my condition, maybe I can be an inspiration to other people,” Massey said. The success rate for his trees is about 85 per cent, he said.
“I think it’s important for the government to keep the tree planting program going,” said Massey. “People who are buying farms and not farming – they can be planting trees.”
Massey, who also grows hay on his farm to feed his horses, said the trees have attracted many more birds to his farm. He has seen more eastern wood pewees, sharp-tailed grouse and pheasants along with chicadees, kinglets and sparrows.
“They are there constantly because they actually have trees to land in and to nest in,” he said.
Beginning in 2008, Forests Ontario has facilitated the planting of more than 29 million trees through the 50 MTP. This achievement was made possible through the hard work of over 80 dedicated partners, such as conservation authorities, stewardship groups and First Nations. Forests Ontario has planted over 150,000 trees since 2008 in Algoma District.
In April of 2019, the Government of Ontario cancelled funding for the 50 MTP. In response, public support for tree planting came quickly: the media wrote hundreds of articles about the 50 MTP cancellation and nearly 100,000 people signed a petition in support of Forests Ontario’s tree planting efforts.
In June, the Government of Canada committed up to $15M over four years towards the program. Funding Forests Ontario’s 50 MTP has also increased from corporate sponsors and donors, all of whom want to do their part for the environment and the fight against climate change.
Those wishing to apply for the program can visit here.