County leads the way in tree planting
ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO POSTMEDIA NETWORK Canada already features plenty of wonderful forests, but an Ontario initiative seeks to ensure that remains the reality for future generations.
Simcoe County is leading the province in a rather enviable category.
The county's ranked first in the large organization category of Ontario's Green Leaf Challenge, having planted 81,000 trees so far this year.
Unveiled this spring, the Forests Ontario/Government of Ontario initiative seeks to have provincial residents, businesses, municipalities and community groups plant trees in honour of the country's sesquicentennial.
With 369,473 trees planted so far provincially, the the county leads its nearest competitor (the city of Greater Sudbury's regreening program, which has so far planted 46,873 trees).
At approximately 33,000 acres and growing, the Simcoe County Forest is the largest municipally-owned forest in Ontario and among the largest of its kind in Canada.
Orillia-based naturalist Bob Bowles said the city is also doing its part with a tree-planting project designed to ensure more native species soon tower above the municipality's skyline.
"We hope people plant sugar maples, white pines or if they don't have the space shrubs like high-bush cranberries that attract birds," he said.
The two groups spearheading the challenge expect it to have a significant impact on Ontario's air quality by adding new forest cover to beautify communities, produce clean air, improve local water supplies, establish wildlife habitat and provide a buffer against the effects of climate change across the province.
"We are amazed at the momentum the Green Leaf Challenge has already gathered," Forests Ontario CEO Rob Keen said in a release. "We encourage everyone to continue to plant trees and help us reach our goal of planting and counting three million trees."
The challenge runs throughout the year with the Green Leaf website (greenleafchallenge.ca) featuring an online counter and tree-planting events and resources in one's area.
Forests Ontario spokeswoman Jeannette Holder said the response has been phenomenal since the initiative began.
"It's really exciting," she said. "Our preference is for people to plant native trees."