TORONTO, March 2 /CNW/ - After more than 30 years working in a steel mill, Daniel Beaudoin dreamt of retiring and living near a beautiful forest.
Daniel began to search for his ideal retirement property. What he found - actually, what he didn't find - surprised him. What seemed like a fairly easy task in rural Ontario proved to be extremely challenging.
"There were very few tracts of land available that had trees or wooded areas on them," said Beaudoin. "This was very surprising to me since many of these properties were marginal in nature and would probably not sustain a farming business."
Research shows that what Daniel found should not be a surprise. In the 1970s and 80s there were up to 20 to 30 million trees planted in southern Ontario each year. Since the early 90s this has dropped to as low as two million. Decreased tree planting, rapid urban growth and various forms of deforestation have left forest cover in some areas of southern Ontario as low as five per cent.
As farm practices have evolved, many acres of land that were only marginally productive for crops have been left idle across southern Ontario. These hilly or rocky sites that have low fertility are often perfect for growing trees.
Not able to find what he wanted, Daniel decided to buy a 35-acre property in Alexandria, about an hour east of Ottawa. The property had a nice house and was surrounded by beautiful barren rolling hills. He planned to create his own forest on the hilly terrain and in the marginal soil.
He started by planting trees around the house. He bought them at local nurseries paying anywhere from $1 to $120 for each tree - totalling over $6,000. After hand planting these 300 trees, Daniel realized it was going to take a long time and a lot of money before he achieved his dream retirement property.
That's when a friend told him about the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources' 50 Million Tree Program that provides financial incentives to people 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.
Daniel contacted Trees Ontario, the agency in charge of administering the 50 Million Tree Program. They sent out a representative from the Raisin Region Conservation Authority, one of its local tree planting partners. The forester walked through Daniel's property. They discussed Daniel's tree planting goals, developed a plan, helped secure and purchase the seedlings and planted all the trees. His retirement property is now home to 13,000 new trees at a cost that is less than what he spent to plant the 300 original trees by himself. And by participating in the 50 Million Tree Program, the conservation authority did all the planting for him.
The 50 Million Tree Program focuses on the planting of native tree species deemed to be the best for survival with the climate and soil conditions of the region. Daniel's property is now full of young spruces, pines and silver maples.
He is looking forward to watching these trees grow into a mature forest and with it the return of wildlife such as deer, wild turkeys and partridges and the privacy and protection the trees will provide especially against the winds on the north and west side of his house.
Groups like Trees Ontario are ready to assist more landowners with their tree planting plans. The landowners who have participated all note the benefits of trees, including the beauty of the green cover, increased property value, privacy from neighbours, contribution to the local environment and the natural habitat for wildlife. And, with the financial and logistical incentives provided by programs like the 50 Million Tree Program, the time has never been better.
Spring is the busiest tree planting season and presents a great opportunity for Ontarians to do their part to re-forest the province...whether it is planting trees on their property, volunteering time to help at a local tree planting event or contributing funds to organizations like Trees Ontario to help them reach their annual tree planting goals.
For more information about the 50 Million Tree Program and other tree planting programs and incentives available to Ontario landowners, visit: http://www.treesontario.ca/programs.