March 18, 2009

It's time to sequester more carbon dioxide

As published in The Erin Advocate

Finally, the tree-planting season is here. Time to get your hands dirty, get re-connected to the land and get on with saving the planet, one planting at a time.

Living in balance with the world that sustains us is not pie-in-the-sky idealism, it is a shift in thinking that can have real benefits where we live right now.

Everyone knows we need to reduce output of carbon dioxide to fight global warming, but our addiction to horseless carriages and electrical gadgets is going to be hard to break.

In the meantime, what if we had ingenious devices to capture and sequester (store) carbon dioxide, filter pollution out of the air, pump out pure oxygen, improve water quality, reduce heating and air conditioning costs, boost the productivity of farms and provide habitat for animals?

Fortunately, they have been invented, with a design very pleasing to the eye. We just need to put lots of them in the ground and not chop too many down.

One of the most passionate tree advocates in this neck of the woods is Rob Johnson, Program Manager for Wellington County's Green Legacy Program. He is out in the schools almost every day at this time of the year with a program that enables about 2,500 Kindergarten to Grade 3 students to learn about ecology and grow Red Oak trees from seed.

"The curriculum is getting greener all the time," he said. "The best way to moderate climate change is with trees." Another 2,500 students in Grades 4-6 travel to the nurseries to transplant trees and go on an educational hike, while Grade 7-8 students go on tree planting field trips.

Johnson likes to quote Albert Einstein, who said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." One of Southern Ontario's problems is that many areas were stripped of good forest to supply lumber and create farmland. Forest now covers about 17 per cent of Wellington, but Environment Canada says 30 per cent is needed to maintain healthy water quality and quantity. That could take 50 million trees.

Green Legacy collects local seeds, then grows and plants more than 150,000 trees in Wellington every year. Seedlings are distributed free to environmental groups, service clubs, schools, local municipalities and landowners (who partner with a non-profit group). All the trees are booked for 2009, but starting in October, you can order for 2010.

For this year, you can still take advantage of the Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) Tree Planting Program. It is for properties of at least two acres (though you do not have to plant the whole area). The trees and the planting are highly subsidized – up to 75 per cent.

There is a reforestation program for old fields that are not being used for crops or pasture, where they will machine-plant 1,500 or more bare root evergreen seedlings. About 125,000 seedlings were planted last year, starting new forest on 125 acres.
The naturalization program is for environmental improvement to smaller properties (not for landscaping). They transplanted about 10,000 potted seedlings last year.

"Over time, the roots of trees will develop the soil, make it more porous so it will absorb water like a sponge and release it over time, so there will be less erosion," said CVC Forester Zoltan Kovacs. You can call him at 905-702-5201 for information, or go to

CVC will have a technician check your property and give you a detailed cost estimate. You have to agree to leave the trees growing for at least 15 years, though you can cut some Christmas trees.

If you are keen, sign up for the CVC's free tree planting workshop, March 28, 9 a.m. to noon at the Caledon Village Library on Highway 10. Contact Holly Nadalin at 905-670-1615, ext. 449 by this Friday, March 20.