Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

Northern Sunrise County is looking for avid outdoor enthusiasts looking to plant more trees to be part of Tree Canada’s new National Greening Program.

“In 2023, an opportunity arose through a partnership with the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) and has evolved significantly since then,” says Environmental Program Coordinator Katie Bartman.

“While the ALUS program allowed for smaller projects to be executed, the Tree Canada National Greening Program has accelerated the reforestation process considerably.”

The purpose of the National Greening Program is to target areas in need of reforestation or afforestation with mass seedling plantings. Last year, according to Tree Canada, over 2 million trees were planted in five regions: British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic.

Tree Canada is actively looking to engage new landowners and partners to support reforestation efforts across the country.

“Amid the recent climate events, safeguarding our natural resources has become more crucial than ever,” explains Bartman.

“In the region, many individuals have witnessed their trees succumbing to various stressors like drought, insects, and wildfires. Reforesting or afforesting the land serves as a great solution,” she adds.

Bartman explains for some landowners the idea of planting trees on a small or large scale can feel daunting. She says landowners benefit from Tree Canada’s wealth of experience in project design, skilled staff and forestry specialists, collaborations with conservation groups, as well as financial assistance.

Tree Canada is looking for a minimum planting area for the National Greening Program project of four hectares, or a minimum of 8,000 seedlings.

The landowner will only need to grant access to their land to forestry professionals for the purpose of surveying the site and developing a planting plan. Access must also be provided to facilitate the completion of the planting process.

Tree Canada also conducts survival assessments to measure the success of plantings and determine maintenance requirements. Sampling is done in the first, second and fifth years after planting. If tree survival falls below an industry standard threshold, Tree Canada will replant the site at its own cost. Survival assessments are conducted by third party assessors, a registered professional forester, forestry technician, or an equivalent qualified professional.

In addition to the survival assessments, an assessor will perform an audit within 30 days of the planting to ensure the desired quality standards are achieved.

“All these projects, regardless of their scale, have a substantial positive impact on the region and future generations,” explains Bartman.

“By implementing sustainable practices and promoting environmental stewardship, we ensure that our natural heritage remains intact for years to come,” she adds.

“Community involvement and education are key components in this endeavour, as they foster a collective sense of responsibility and pride.”

Bartman says future generations will not only inherit a healthier environment but also a robust framework for continued sustainable development. She says through these concerted efforts a thriving and resilient community is created, where nature and progress coexist harmoniously.

Tree Canada’s National Greening Program (NGP) funding is sourced from a combination of private and public contributors. The NGP receives funds from corporate, foundation, and individual donors, and also through the federal government’s 2 Billion Trees Program contribution agreement.

To participate in the program, landowners must have a plant-able area of four hectares or greater. Preference will be given to planting on municipal or First Nations lands where there is a guarantee they will remain in forest cover and where the primary objective of the landowner is forest conservation. The land has to be a candidate for afforestation or restoration due to natural or human caused disturbances, or where improving forest cover will help improve riparian areas.

Benefits of replanting trees include providing ecosystem stability, cleaner air, water, and soil. Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, helping to fight climate change by removing storing carbon from the air. The new forest cover will protect and enhance habitat for wildlife and also increases biodiversity.

“Wherever feasible, we (NSC) enhance our planting efforts with the ALUS program,’” says Bartman.

“This program offers the opportunity to enroll unproductive farmland in situations where planting is taking place. By participating in the ALUS program, landowners can receive an annual incentive for taking the land out of production. Moreover, we provide in-kind contributions whenever we can.”

Tree Canda encourages all landowners that are interested in the program to submit a proposal through its online form, and they say due to limited annual funding for plantings nationwide, project proposals will be evaluated based on merit.

Tree Canada selects native tree seedlings suitable for each site to promote the ecosystem’s restoration or preservation. Native species are favoured as they have a higher chance of thriving and re-establishing themselves since they have historically grown in the area. In some cases, species that are better adapted to changing climates are considered; for instance, a small Colorado spruce trial was planted in Northern Sunrise County this year due to its increased drought resistance.

There will be an agreement made between the NGP and landowner to ensure the landowner commits to not cutting, harvesting, or relocating the trees for a minimum of 20 years up to 50 years. This commitment secures long-term success and environmental benefits such as enhanced biodiversity and resilience.

Interested landowners can visit Tree Canada’s National Greening Program website (see address on this page.

County residents can also reach out to Bartman at (780) 322-3831 or by email at kbartman@northernsunrise.net