Recognizing the faculty

For those of you who are not familiar with LEAF, we are a community-based, not-for-profit organization that engages urban residents in the protection, care and regeneration of our urban forest. I would like to share with you today the ways in which the University of Toronto has contributed to LEAF’s evolution.

I’m very pleased to be here today and to have this opportunity to recognize the ongoing contributions of University of Toronto, Faculty of Forestry to the urban forestry movement.
I’d like to thank Tree Canada for their efforts to establish a National Tree Day for Canada.
Dr Andy Kenney supported the idea of LEAF from the beginning.  He has been a personal mentor to me from the time I came to him almost 15 years ago with the idea to start the organization.  Andy served on the volunteer board of directors of LEAF for many years and has always been a tireless advocate for the importance of community involvement in urban forest management.  His message, that communities own the urban forest and communities must take ownership of it, continues to be a central theme in all of our work.  I know I can speak on behalf of the many community groups across the province working on urban forest issues when I say that Andy has inspired and supported us all.  His ability to bring academia together with community groups has helped us all achieve more.
The Faculty of Forestry has been training professionals for an emerging urban forestry sector for many years.  At LEAF, we have had nearly 15 graduates of the faculty work or volunteer with LEAF over the years.  Their energy, ideas and commitment have allowed us to evolve into a respected organization with effective programs.
The Faculty continues to train professionals for a growing urban forest movement.  What’s happening today is very exciting.  Municipalities are undertaking scientific studies that quantify the dollar value of ecological services provided by urban forests.  They are using this information to make a political case for increased investment in the protection and renewal of this valuable resource and they are creating urban forest management plans and hiring professionals to help implement them.  Community groups are emerging across the province and are undertaking diverse projects like urban forest inventories and heritage tree hunts.
Some of you may have read Mayor Rob Ford’s quote in the Toronto Star where he said that trees are great, but they don’t employ people.  Well, Mayor Ford is very wrong about that.  The urban forest movement is at a tipping point.  It’s about to explode.
We are facing many challenges, like climate change and emerald ash borer, but these challenges also present opportunities that we need to be ready to seize.  The Faculty of Forestry at U of T is educating the young people who will make the most of those opportunities and will carry the movement forward.  I am extremely excited about continuing to work with the faculty, students and graduates to capture the opportunities before us for real change.