April 4, 2019 1:34 pm

Spring tree planting blitz brings 50K trees to London area

Upper Thames River Conservation Authority Forester, John Enright, holds one of the trees that'll be planted as part of a spring blitz. \

Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

Roughly 50,000 trees and seedlings will be planted across the upper Thames River watershed over the next three weeks, but officials with the local conservation authority say it’s a far cry from the number of trees planted in the past.

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“We used to plant 250,000 trees a year,” said John Enright, a forester at the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. He oversaw the unloading of coniferous trees Thursday morning, the majority of which — starting Monday — will go to rural land and farm owners in the watershed who expressed interest in buying them.

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The trees range in price, from 50 cents to a $1.50 for a seedling or $8-10 for a young coniferous tree. The conservation authority shares that cost with farmers, and there are a variety of grants available — like Forests Ontario‘s 50 Million Tree Program & the Clean Water Program — to keep prices down and promote conservation efforts.

But despite their ability to reduce soil erosion, offer protection from the wind, and keep nutrient-rich soils from ending up in watercourses, Enright says the number of trees being planted in the spring has held steady at 50,000 for the past ten years. Two decades ago, officials say the annual figure, which includes a fall planting season, was closer to 250,000.

“In the rural areas, land values have gone up, commodity prices have gone up. And maybe a lot of the areas that were suitable [for] trees have been planted up, I’m not too sure,” he explained.

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There also used to be better grants available through the government, which would recoup nearly 100 per cent of the cost before the provincial tree nursery system was privatized, he said.

“The cost of the trees went up, there weren’t as many subsidies from the province. So that probably had an impact on the number decrease.”

Enright calls is “discouraging,” but says the UTRCA is trying to promote trees to land and owners through workshops. Some of the 50,000 being planted this spring are native hardwoods that’ll find urban homes through London Hydro’s Tree Power program.

Londoners who are interested in buying a tree can get them through a variety of different sources, including the city, ReForest London, and the UTRCA.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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