Network launched to improve the plight of Ontario’s threatened urban forests
(Tuesday, April 5, 2011, Toronto, ON – For immediate release) Today, LEAF - Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests along with five other groups around the province held events to officially launch the newly created Urban Forest Stewardship Network (UFSN) and its website, www.ufsn.ca. The network is designed to facilitate an exchange of ideas, resources and contacts for those community groups and individuals in Ontario interested in improving their local urban forest.
Ontario’s urban forests face increasing threat from stresses such as development pressure, climate change and exotic pests. Many trees are coming to the end of their lifespan and adequate planting and care programs are not in place. Most communities in Ontario are experiencing a decline in canopy cover. Without concerted efforts to actively nurture urban forests, we will see a continued decline and loss of quality of life in our communities.
The Toronto event, held in Trinity Bellwoods Park, was organized by LEAF in conjunction with Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park. More than a dozen trees were affixed with large “price tags” outlining the value that urban trees provide to local residents. These include intercepting rainfall resulting in reduced storm water runoff, conserving energy by shading homes and businesses and improving air quality by trapping pollution particles that cause breathing problems. These “ecological goods and services” provided by urban forests save municipalities and taxpayers millions of dollars every year in infrastructure and health costs. An average mature tree provides $162,000 in ecological goods and services over a 50 year lifespan.
“Urban forests are an important part of our living green infrastructure,” said Janet McKay, Executive Director, LEAF. “They are the only type of infrastructure that actually appreciates in value over time. We should be investing much more in their care and protection.”
Amanda Gomm, Manager of Volunteer and Community Engagement with LEAF added, “The UFSN is a terrific resource and support network for individuals to connect with others who care about urban trees and want to work together to improve our urban forests which ask for so little and give so much.”
The UFSN is supported by Ontario Power Generation’s Biodiversity program which is aimed at getting Ontarians involved in protecting and conserving biodiversity.
“Our partnership with LEAF is an extension of OPG’s efforts across Ontario to enhance both urban and rural forests,” said Steve Hounsell, Senior Advisor, Sustainable Development at OPG. “Since the spring of 2000, we’ve supported the planting of more than 4.4 million native trees and shrubs on 5,000 acres of strategically important lands for woodland habitat restoration.”
Coincident events were held across the province in Elora, hosted by Neighbourwoods on the Grand; in Ottawa, hosted by Ottawa Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee (OFGAC); in Peterborough, hosted by Peterborough Green-Up; in London, hosted by ReForest London; in Hamilton, hosted by ReLEAF Hamilton.
“The urban forest is an incredible recourse that needs to be actively cared for if we hope to enjoy the benefits they provide,” concluded Gomm. “By joining the UFSN, citizens can take an active role in ensuring our urban forests will be with us for generations to come.”
Neighbourwoods on the Grand:
“It’s good to see the spotlight being shone on our hardworking trees that do so much for all of us. And, it’s good to see so many people galvanized to protect, steward and plant them,” said Toni Ellis on behalf of NeighbourWoods on the Grand.
Ottawa Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee (OFGAC):
Susan Barker, the UFSN lead from the City of Ottawa's Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee (OFGAC) said, “OFGAC would like to see the City of Ottawa taking a leadership role in urban forestry, setting a new provincial standard of stewardship. This event marks the beginning of increased attention to the benefits of trees in the urban environment.”
"ReForest London is proud to be part of a growing group of Ontarians who are taking action in their own communities to protect and enhance their urban forests. Trees are valuable resources -- economically, environmentally, and culturally."