Forests Ontario, with Parks Canada and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), is planting the first trees to take root under the federal government’s 2 Billion Trees program. These trees are a first step towards a national planting target of two billion trees over the next decade.

The 26,000 new trees being planted in 2021 by Forests Ontario and partners will help restore riparian buffers and wetlands, improve habitat connectivity, fix carbon, and enrich agricultural soils in Rouge National Urban Park – the largest urban park of its kind in North America. Forests Ontario, Parks Canada, and TRCA have plans for further large-scale afforestation plantings at the park next year.

“Parks Canada is proud to work closely with Forests Ontario and the TRCA to plant 26,000 trees in Rouge National Urban Park this spring,” said Omar McDadi, Superintendent of Rouge National Urban Park. “These trees will create important forest and riparian habitat, support species-at-risk, protect farmland by enriching soil and creating windbreaks, help to reduce flooding by stabilizing the soil, and sequester carbon to mitigate the effects of climate change – all in support of our mandate to protect and celebrate the park’s natural, cultural and agricultural heritage.”

Forests Ontario is also planting an eight-kilometre-long windbreak along a section of the park’s trail network through the organization’s 50 Million Tree Program (50 MTP). This will also be undertaken in collaboration with Parks Canada and TRCA. Together, the partners will establish 19 more kilometers of windbreak during the next several years.

These plantings will establish buffers between natural heritage features, reduce erosion, and improve wildlife habitat and biodiversity. Additionally, these trees will support Parks Canada in carrying out its 10-year Management Plan for Rouge National Urban Park, a primary goal of which is to create and restore 30 hectares of forest by 2022. Having planted 123,000 trees and shrubs across 28 hectares since 2015, Parks Canada is on track to well exceed this target.

“Forests Ontario’s efforts at Rouge National Urban Park in Spring 2021 demonstrate the versatility of the 50 MTP and the types of planting it supports,” said Rob Keen, RPF and CEO of Forests Ontario. The 50 MTP provides financial and technical assistance to a network of professional planting partners who work closely with landowners wishing to plant a minimum of 500 trees on their property.

Across Ontario, the 50 MTP supports many different types of plantings:

  • Riparian buffers involve planting along the edge of waterbodies and are useful for stabilizing shorelines and improving water quality.
  • Windbreaks, the strategic planting of trees in rows, can reduce soil erosion and snowdrift, enhance productivity of farmland, and create habitat corridors for wildlife.
  • Restoration planting helps rehabilitate native forests impacted by climate change, wildfire, weather, pests, or invasive species.
  • Afforestation, or the creation of new forest on land that has had no previous tree cover.

In total, 34 million trees have been planted across Ontario through the 50 MTP since 2008.

“The 50 MTP benefits both human and wildlife communities immensely,” explained Keen. “On top of improving soil and water quality, increasing wildlife habitat, and enhancing opportunities for recreation, it helps fight climate change. Plus, the 50 MTP pays for an average of 75 to 90 per cent of tree planting costs for eligible landowners – one of the best deals going for getting trees planted on your property.”

Apply now to be added to the waitlist for the 2022 planting season by visiting www.forestsontario.ca/en/program/50-million-tree-program.

Featured image from Forests Ontario: Brynn Sissons planting trees at Rouge National Urban Park in Ontario.

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