Ontario Cancels Tree Planting Program, Jeopardizing Jobs and Environmental Benefits

ontario tree planting program

Ontario’s decision to cancel the 50 Million Tree Program has raised concerns about the loss of jobs and the environmental benefits that forests provide. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry informed Forests Ontario of the program’s elimination shortly after the government released its budget.

The 50 Million Tree Program, initiated in 2008, has successfully planted over 27 million trees across Ontario. This program not only aimed to sequester carbon but also contributed to cleaner air and water, shoreline protection, and erosion reduction. With the current forest cover in southern Ontario averaging at 26 percent and some areas as low as five percent, a 40 percent forest cover is necessary for forest sustainability.

Forests Ontario CEO, Rob Keen, emphasized the importance of healthy, contiguous, large forests in mitigating and adapting to climate change. However, the tree planting program, which had an annual budget of approximately $4.7 million, was considered expendable in the government’s efforts to reduce the deficit.

“It’s very short-sighted,” commented Ed Patchell, CEO of Ferguson Tree Nursery, one of the program’s main nurseries. Patchell warned that the cancellation of the 50 Million Tree Program would result in increased erosion in flood zones, poorer air and water quality, warmer lakes and streams without forest cover, and diminished wildlife habitat. Additionally, he expects a significant loss of income for the nursery and potential layoffs of six to eight full-time and seasonal staff members.

The repercussions of the program’s cancellation extend to partner organizations, such as conservation authorities, who rely on its funding. Justine Lewkowicz, a spokeswoman for Natural Resources and Forestry Minister John Yakabuski, stated that the government’s priority is to balance the budget responsibly. She highlighted the forestry industry’s annual planting of 68 million trees, which supports jobs in forestry, nurseries, and tree planting. However, she did not disclose the number of trees harvested each year.

The cancellation of the 50 Million Tree Program is not only a blow to job opportunities but also threatens the health and sustainability of Ontario’s forests. As we face the challenges of climate change, preserving and expanding forest cover is crucial. At Tips Tree Planting, we understand the significance of trees in maintaining a healthy environment. Visit our website to discover more tips and insights on tree planting.