By Jonathan Martin
The federal government is planting $15 million over four years to rescue Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program.
The provincial government cut the program’s funding earlier this year. Industry members predicted this cut would lead to the destruction of millions of trees.
Private nurseries used money from the 50 Million Tree Program to plant and grow trees until they were ready for sale, Sandy MacDonald, a professor of horticulture at St. Clair College, told Farms.com.
Forests Ontario headed the program, which was originally meant to plant 50 million trees by 2020. In 2012, Forests Ontario pushed the deadline back another five years “due to funding and capacity restrictions.” So far, it has planted around 27 million trees with an annual budget of $4.7 million.
The provincial government cited these statistics in its reason for cutting funding to the program in an official e-mail release.
Tree crops run in three-year cycles but the Ontario government’s cancellation plan would only fund tree plantings for one year. After that year, the cost of growing the trees would fall on the nurseries, John Yakabuski, the province’s natural resources and forestry minister, said in a May question period.
The federal government’s newly announced funding will extend over four years. For nursery owners, that timeline means they will receive funding to plant the trees and grow them until they are ready for sale.
Every year, nurseries in Ontario participating in the program collectively cultivate an average of 2.5 million seeds. When the provincial government cut funding, 7.5 million saplings were already at various stages of growth.
The federal funding will support the planting and growth of around 10 million trees, bringing the 50 Million Tree Program's total to 37 million planted trees.
No system for funding anything beyond that amount has been announced.