The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority had seven million reasons to smile on Saturday, May 13 as it celebrated the planting of its seven millionth tree with a commemorative event in Richmond.
Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and Elizabethtown-Kitley Mayor Brant Burrow helped plant a burr oak sapling, which served as a symbolic seven millionth tree for the ceremony.
In reality, the true milestone seedling is growing somewhere in the watershed, likely hand-planted last spring in a rural landowner’s unused field along with thousands of other bare root native trees.
Since 1984, the RVCA has been committed to tree planting across the watershed as part of its comprehensive watershed management strategy. Trees aren’t just pretty providers of shade; they are also key to reducing the impacts of floods and droughts, filtering contaminants out of stormwater, storing carbon, managing erosion and providing critical wildlife habitat.
Most of the trees planted since 1984 have been through RVCA’s Private Landowner Forestry program, which offers generous financial and technical support for farmers and other rural landowners to complete large-scale planting on their properties. The program offers steep subsidies, bringing prices as low as $0.15 per tree. Program costs are covered by funding partners such as Forests Ontario, the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation and One Tree Planted.
Landowners in all 18 of RVCA’s member municipalities have participated in the program, but the City of Ottawa and Elizabethtown-Kitley’s landowners have planted the most. More than 2 million trees have been planted in the City of Ottawa through its Green Acres program, which works with RVCA as well as Mississippi Valley and South Nation conservation authorities to plant trees on private lands. Elizabethtown-Kitley has about 600,000 trees on the books since 1992, more than any other rural municipality in the watershed.
“Seven million trees is quite an accomplishment,” Mayor Sutcliffe told Saturday’s crowd, which included donors and funding partners as well as about 30 volunteers who had just finished planting another 130 trees along Flowing Creek. Sutcliffe reiterated his commitment to planting another one million trees during this term of office.
Mayor Burrow said he was proud to learn his municipality is tops in tree planting in rural Rideau Valley.
“Considering that Elizabethtown-Kitley covers an area of more than 550 square kilometers, it stands to reason our tree canopy would be fairly significant,” Mayor Burrow said. “However, learning that our landowners have added another 600,000 trees to the natural inventory still came as a bit of a surprise – and it is something our residents should be extremely proud of.”
Mayor Burrow suggested he’d like his municipality to hit 700,000 by the end of his term in 2026.
RVCA general manager Sommer Casgrain-Robertson said this milestone is another great example of the watershed-wide model at work.
“When we plant trees in Portland, residents downstream in Smiths Falls benefit. When we plant trees in Merrickville, residents downstream in Barrhaven benefit. We’re all downstream from somewhere,” Casgrain-Robertson said. “We are thrilled to see the commitment from local landowners as they embrace these natural solutions on their properties, for the benefit of the entire watershed.”
RVCA thanks its many partners, donors and supporters for helping it reach this momentous milestone.
To learn more about the tree planting program and book a site visit, visit https://www.rvca.ca/stewardship-grants.
Featured Image: The RVCA planted its seven millionth tree in Richmond May 13.