ERCA concerned over cuts to tree planting program
Officials at the Essex Region Conservation Authority are concerned about the latest cutback from the provincial government.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry told Forests Ontario the day after the Progressive Conservative government delivered its budget this month that the 50 Million Tree Program was being eliminated.
Rob Keen, CEO of Forests Ontario, said since 2008 more than 27 million trees have been planted across Ontario through the program, which saved landowners up to 90 per cent of the costs of large-scale tree planting.
The program's annual budget was about $4.7 million, Keen said, and Forests Ontario was told it was being cancelled as a way to cut provincial costs.
"Premier (Doug) Ford wants to reduce the deficit and this was...something they thought was expendable," Keen said.
ERCA General Manager Richard Wyma tells CTV Windsor the program may seem small but may be very significant in the future.
"The government has set a goal of reducing the deficit and we understand that target and it is important but at the same time we look at programs like this, this will have far greater implication that are much more significant,” adds Wyma.
Data from ERCA shows the conservation authority has planted 450,000 seedlings in Windsor-Essex since joining the program in 2011.
Wyma calls it an essential initiative that reduces carbon pollution, improves air and water quality, protects Ontario shorelines and mitigates flood risk.
Tree coverage in Windsor-Essex is currently estimated at 8.5 per cent. The goal was 12 per cent.
But Wyma says the loss of the program will not affect this weekend's tree planting as part of Earth Day celebrations.
ERCA encourages residents to help plant an estimated 2,000 trees on Wyandotte at Florence in Windsor at 10 a.m. on Saturday.