Canopy Growth announced a $100,000 donation to Forests Ontario last month to aid in the organization’s tree planting initiatives. However, Ed Patchell, CEO of the FFC, says it is not enough. The $100,000 donation will only help plant about 50,000 trees in Ontario, a small fraction of the Ontario government’s former goal of 3 million a year. According to Forests Ontario, experts have determined that a minimum 30% tree cover is needed to maintain a healthy and sustainable ecosystem. In some places in Ontario, the forest cover is as low as five per cent, which compromises the health of our ecosystems and their inhabitants.
“Ontario needs about 1-2 billion trees planted to meet our needs in terms of a sustainable ecosystem,” Ed says. The goal of the scrapped 50 Million Tree program, run by Forests Ontario, was to plant that number of trees across Ontario by 2025. The provincial government no longer supports any sort of target for tree planting in the province.
The federal government threw a lifeline to Forests Ontario in June, committing $15 million to the 50 Million Tree program, to plant 10 million trees over four years. Ed says that, while this was a positive development, not every dollar from the federal investment goes to nurseries like the FFC. “All of the money does not go directly towards tree planting,” he says. “Some goes to the overhead costs of running the program.”
It is clear that Ed welcomed the $100,000 investment from Canopy Growth to support tree planting in Ontario; however, he says the one-time donation is not the solution. “What we really need is a groundswell of interest and support for tree planting,” he says. “Society has to recognize there is value for more than just the landowner.”
Ed believes the only real solution that will ensure the viability of nurseries like the FFC into the future is government investment. Unfortunately, he doesn’t see that happening with the current administration. “They are looking too short term,” he says.
The FFC is working hard to keep their heads above water. He hopes that the Ontario government will decide to invest in tree planting again in the future, and he is taking on the responsibility, as the head of the FFC, to make sure they remain viable until the funding becomes available. “The biggest fear is, we will lose the infrastructure for tree planting in the future,” Ed says. “We want to be here for the long term, but it’s hard to invest in something that you don’t have the long-term buyer for.”
As a not for profit organization, the FFC is committed to buying and hiring locally, supporting the local economy as much as they can. They also only grow native and non-invasive species, which don’t always do well on the market. “We’re trying to do what’s right, and that’s a challenge,” Ed says.
Ed accepts that the FFC will likely see some benefit from the $100,000 donation from Canopy Growth to Forest Ontario, but he is unsure how much of an impact it will make. Forest Ontario is still trying to figure out how they are going to distribute the funds, and the reality is that it is just a small blip of support in a much larger issue.