The sun has barely crested the horizon on a beautiful Friday morning and Linda Christensen is already out roaming her East Hawkesbury property, in preparation for the day’s scheduled tree planting by South Nation Conservation (SNC).
“I have a farmer who farms two of my fields and he told me which ones were really useless,” says Christensen, of her 100-acre property, which was previously a farm built in the late 1800s. “He said I might as well plant trees there if I wanted to, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Christensen is just one of hundreds of landowners across Prescott-Russell who were having seedlings planted on their properties this spring by the SNC, as part of Forests Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program (50 MTP). The not-for-profit organization has been working with partners across the province to plant 2.8 million trees in 2021, with 79,800 of these trees taking root in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell through the help of the SNC. In Alfred-Plantagenet alone, the SNC has planted more than 30,000 tree seedlings from Forests Ontario over the past few weeks.
South Nation Conservation was at Christensen’s property in East Hawkesbury on May 21 to plant 1,560 seedlings – a fraction of the almost 10,000 planted there through Forests Ontario since she first began using the program in 2009. Over the years, the SNC and Forest Ontario have planted tree species of all kinds on the historic farmland, including cedar, black walnut, white pine, oak, tamarack, spruce, maple and willow.
While that may seem like a lot of trees, there are dozens of farmers and private landowners throughout Eastern Ontario who are just like Christensen – planting thousands of seedlings on their properties every year. The new seedlings require care however, so many choose to start slowly, adding more trees each spring as they gain experience about the work required.
“Sometimes they like to start with a small amount of trees and see how much work there is to do,” explains SNC Forester Caroline Goulet. “Every year they add more and more.”
In Eastern Ontario, the majority of seedlings are purchased by the SNC from the Ferguson Tree Nursery in Kemptville, using the funding from Forests Ontario. The seedlings are booked the previous year, after staff from the SNC visit the properties to determine soil type and to create a site plan to determine which stock at the nursery is best suited to the conditions.
“We have to submit the plan and the seedlings that we want to Forests Ontario before February,” Goulet notes, adding most landowners who apply for the program are accepted as long as their property can take a minimum quantity of 500 seedlings. “If you have at least one acre of land and you want it filled with trees you are usually eligible.”
“They’ve been tremendously helpful and I’ve gotten to know people through the years.” Christensen says of the staff at South Nation Conservation. “I’ve also been to some of their conferences and that helped a lot.”
Christensen uses a walker due to balance issues, but that doesn’t slow her down. She zips around the property on a John Deere Gator with her Great Dane/Labrador Retriever cross Touson trotting alongside, all the while pointing out various sections of trees planted over the past decade.
“I just have to say that personally every time I see clear cutting I figure it’s time to order new trees,” Christensen says emphatically, as she gestures towards a small forest being removed just down the road from her property.
The SNC had all of the 79,500 trees provided through Forests Ontario planted by May 22, with Christensen’s May 21 project one of the last of the spring season for the organization. In addition to those provided through Forest Ontario’s 50 MTP program, the SNC has been busy providing seedlings through various programs of its own, including 44,000 planted in the Larose Forest at the end of April.
While all of the trees through Forests Ontario’s 50 MTP program are now planted for 2021, it is never too early to think about next spring. Anyone who wishes to apply to be added to the waiting list for the 2022 tree planting season can visit www.forestsontario.ca/en/program/50-million-tree-program.