Amid plans to plant 125,000 trees, Essex authority says new law means red tape for green plan

·1 min read
Tim Byrne of the Essex Region Conservation Authority stands beside the Little River dike system in Windsor, Ont., in a 2019 photo. (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)
Tim Byrne of the Essex Region Conservation Authority stands beside the Little River dike system in Windsor, Ont., in a 2019 photo. (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)

The Essex Region Conservation Authority has announced plans to plant 125,000 trees this spring, but the organization has concerns about what new provincial legislation will mean to the program in the future.

Under changes to the Conservation Authorities Act that were introduced last fall, tree planting would become a "non-core" activity, meaning conservation authorities can't levy municipalities to undertake the activity on private property.

While the authorities are waiting to see the regulations flowing from the updated law, ERCA officials are concerned that to continue the tree-planting program after this year, it will need to enter into separate agreements with each municipality within the region.

"It increases red tape at the local level," ERCA chief administrative officer Tim Byrne said on CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive on Thursday.

ERCA said tree planting restores habitat and wildlife corridors, along with helping tackle climate change.

The authority plans to reforest over 60 hectares of land by planting and distributing the trees across the watersheds of the region.

"The project that we're completing out in Harrow actually reconnects two substantial wooded features to a wetland," Byrne said in reference to one of the areas that will see reforestation. "Right now, that habitat is fragmented and separated."

According to ERCA, 8.5 per cent of the land in Essex Region is in a natural state, below the minimum 12 per cent identified by the United Nations as a target for sustainability.