News Release: 54 Million Trees Needed to Prepare Greater Golden Horseshoe for a More Climate Resilient Future

The federal Two Billion Trees commitment can prepare Canada’s urban areas for the future and reverse biodiversity loss where it is most at risk.

Nov 10, 2021   •   Featured , News

54 Million Trees Needed to Prepare Greater Golden Horseshoe for a
More Climate Resilient Future

 Southern Ontario Nature Coalition recommends the planting of 54 million native trees

TORONTO, November 10, 2021The federal Two Billion Trees commitment can prepare Canada’s urban areas for the future and reverse biodiversity loss where it is most at risk.

To achieve 30 per cent healthy forest cover in the Greenbelt and Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) area, 54 million native trees are needed. Strategic plantings can help protect water and air quality, reduce risks of flooding, beat extreme heat waves, connect people to nature, provide jobs, and make communities more climate resilient.

A significant investment in forest habitat will provide tremendous benefits to wildlife, natural systems, and the one in four Canadians currently living in the region."

This is a key recommendation in the Southern Ontario Nature Coalition’s (SONC) Near-Urban Nature Network: A Solution for Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss. The work of SONC responds to federal commitments to protect biodiversity and reverse losses, invest in nature-based solutions to mitigate climate change, and address pressing community challenges such as access to greenspace.

Native tree planting in near-urban areas can provide the highest returns, increasing biodiversity and delivering community benefits where the majority of Canadians live. The Greater Golden Horseshoe is the most densely populated region in Canada, with population growth expected to reach 15 million by 2051. A significant investment in forest habitat will provide tremendous benefits to wildlife, natural systems, and the one in four Canadians currently living in the region.

“In addition to traditional ecological benefits, increasing tree cover can reduce the urban heat island effect and make people more comfortable during the more intense heat waves we are starting to experience by providing shaded areas for heat relief and reducing overall temperatures,” says Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation. “Recent research sponsored by the Greenbelt Foundation shows that areas near increased tree cover can feel up to 11 degrees cooler.”

Forest cover in the GGH currently stands below Environment and Climate Change Canada’s 30 per cent target for healthy forests. Planting 54 million trees will set the stage for achieving future targets of 40-50 per cent forest cover and self-sustaining natural systems and species.  With more than 5,000 hectares of woodland lost in the GGH since 2000, plantings will coincide with work to increase protection of natural areas.

“Forests Ontario collaborates with our many partners to ensure healthy forests sustain healthy communities,” says Rob Keen, Registered Professional Forester and CEO of Forests Ontario. “We work with our comprehensive network of seed collectors, nurseries, planting delivery agents, stewardship groups, First Nations, and landowners to ensure the infrastructure needed to implement successful large-scale tree planting initiatives across the province, from seed to survival. We are delighted to be working with our partners to increase natural forest cover in the Greenbelt and Greater Golden Horseshoe.”

Near-urban nature that surrounds and intersects our cities includes forests, river valleys, farmlands, and other ecological features. In the GGH, more than 850,000 hectares (27 per cent) of near-urban natural areas are estimated to be available and appropriate for tree planting. These lands include: the Greenbelt; an extensive network of municipal forests, private woodlots, and conservation lands; community greenspaces including Cootes to Escarpment EcoSystem Park, Brock Lands, and trails systems with the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine; buffer zones around river valleys; marginal farmlands; the Bruce Peninsula; and shoreline areas along Lake Ontario, Simcoe, and Scugog.

To read a Backgrounder with additional details, please click HERE.

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Additional Quotes

“Conservation authorities have been planting trees since the 1940s and currently plant close to 3 million per year. One of the keys to our success is that conservation authorities build relationships with local landowners, municipalities, and partners in order to plant trees. This work will strengthen connections to nature at a local level.” Kim Gavine, General Manager of Conservation Ontario, the association that represents 36 conservation authorities in Ontario.

About Greenbelt Foundation: 

Greenbelt Foundation is a charitable organization, solely dedicated to ensuring the Greenbelt remains permanent, protected and prosperous. We make the right investments in its interconnected natural, agricultural, and economic systems, to ensure a working, thriving Greenbelt for all. Ontario's Greenbelt is the world's largest, with over two million acres of farmland, forests, wetlands and rivers working together to provide clean air, fresh water, and a reliable local food source.  


About Southern Ontario Nature Coalition (SONC):

SONC is a coalition of experienced provincial, regional, and community-based conservation organizations, land-based policy experts, and Indigenous consultants. SONC includes:

Greenbelt Foundation
Ontario Nature
Cambium Indigenous Professional Services
Wildlands League
Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System
Carolinian Canada
Ontario Land Trust Alliance
Ontario Farmland Trust

About Forests Ontario

Forests Ontario is a not-for-profit charity that promotes re-greening the province through forest restoration, conservation, education, and stewardship. Forests Ontario commits to promoting a healthier future by sustaining and supporting healthy forests through multiple tree planting initiatives. Forests Ontario is the voice of our forests. Visit www.forestsontario.ca or follow us @Forests_Ontario to find out more.

About Conservation Ontario

Conservation Ontario is a non-profit association that represents Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities. Conservation Authorities are community-based watershed management agencies, whose mandate is to undertake watershed-based programs to protect people and property from flooding, and other natural hazards, and to conserve natural resources for economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Greenbelt Foundation Media Contact: 

Petronilla Ndebele
Director of Strategic Communications
, Greenbelt Foundation 
(416) 960-0001
Extension 306
medi[email protected] 

Forests Ontario Media Contact:

Colleen Mahaffie
Communications Officer
Forests Ontario / Forest Recovery Canada
416.646.1193 Extension 225
[email protected]

Greenbelt Foundation Social Media: 

Website: greenbelt.ca   
Instagram: @ongreenbelt 
Twitter: @greenbeltca 
Facebook: Ontario Greenbelt