Trees – they have grown to be a significant part of my life, both personally and professionally. As my last day at Tree Canada nears (February 28, 2020), I reflect on how much the organization has changed, grown and been a big part of my life for almost 18 years.
When I first arrived at Tree Canada back in 2002, it was still a federal government entity, with some ties to the private sector and a few individual donors. Today, most of our revenue comes from caring individual donors, the private sector and from companies, who, through corporate social responsibility, support Tree Canada to do something positive for the environment, like planting trees.
Back then, the idea of putting the words “urban” and “forests” together wouldn’t have even been considered, almost scoffed at. Today, it is commonplace and their importance to a city’s functioning and our well-being is well understood. Today, Tree Canada is a national leader in urban forestry.
Our achievements speak for themselves: we have planted over 82 million trees, greened more than 600 schoolyards, brought together countless professionals in the field for our Canadian Urban Forest Conferences, developed a national urban forestry strategy and facilitated the Bachelor of Urban Forestry at the University of British Columbia. These are but just a few of the accomplishments achieved. Now, the recent government’s announcement to plant two billion trees has caught my attention.
For the past 18 years, I have encouraged the federal government to include urban forestry and tree planting as part of their mandate. And today, as one of its election promises, the present government promises to plant two billion trees over the next ten years. The mandate letter of the Minister of Natural Resources even mentioned “urban forests” twice – elaborating on “diversifying urban forests” and “supporting research and funding to increase the resilience of our urban forests”. It is an incredibly exciting time and I am encouraged to see the hard work of so many coming to fruition. Urban forestry is moving ahead and getting the national attention it so deserves.
There are, of course, many other initiatives and accomplishments that the Tree Canada team can be proud of, too many to list in fact. However, the one thing I am personally most proud of is my certainty that the organization I worked so hard for will continue to flourish and do good things for Canadians and our trees. With a great team and supporting partners in place, and with the leadership of Danielle St-Aubin, our new CEO, and Léo Duguay, the Board Chair, the future looks indeed, very bright.
Over my time, I have experienced in many cases, the power of trees often taken too lightly and not seriously regarded. I frequently corrected people who indicated to me that urban forests “looked nice” and were just for “aesthetics”. As article after article continued to come out on the benefits of trees in terms of health, energy conservation, crime reduction and even community pride, I witnessed the shift in people as they began to see trees as an essential part of their lives and a part of the solution to so much that ails us. Municipalities have stepped up to the plate and now employ more foresters, arborists and technicians than ever before to look after this valuable resource. I would like to think that our efforts helped to contribute to that in some small way.
Although I will be stepping away from Tree Canada, my role of “tree whisperer” will always continue. I look forward to keeping in touch with the many people I have met along the way, as it is these connections that I will miss the most.
Lastly, and not in the least, thank you for your support for Tree Canada over the years. Our great country is that much better for it and the beautiful trees we have been able to grow together.
Keep your love of the trees growing and keep well as we wait for the sweet nectar of maple sap that will soon be flowing.