The federal government has committed $15 million to Forest Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program, ensuring its continuation for at least another four years.
This is in response to the provincial government’s announcement in April that they were cutting the program, leaving its suppliers wondering about their future sustainability. The 50 Million Tree Program had an annual budget of $47 million and had planted more than 27 million trees across the province with the goal of reaching 50 million by 2025. CEO of Forest Ontario Rob Keen says Ontario needs to plant about 1 billion trees to ensure forest sustainability in the province.
The funding cut left 7.5 million saplings at varying stages of growth in limbo, with nursery owners unsure of how they were going to fund their crops until they were ready to plant.
Kemptville’s Ferguson Forestry Centre is one of the main suppliers of the program. CEO Ed Patchell says the funding from the government is going to make a huge difference for the centre. “It gives us a four-year reprieve to allow us to adjust to the changes,” he says. There are currently 3 million trees at the Centre at varying stages of growth, and the federal government’s investment will ensure they will have a permanent home.
Although this is good news, it is by no means a permanent solution. Ed says they will still be looking at other avenues that will allow them to continue to operate into the future, as the 50 Million Tree program represents about 30 to 40 per cent of the centre’s income base. “We have corporate interest and the municipality is looking at their own tree needs,” he says. “It’s nothing concrete but it gives us time to have it worked out.”