A New Brunswick tree planter is branching his volunteer-based planting efforts to more provinces this year, COVID-19 permitting.
Jonathan Clark's tree planting company Replant has an environmental division that plants trees in New Brunswick's forests and develops community parks with the help of volunteers and private donations.
"This year there has been so much interest that we're expanding to at least five provinces and possibly seven," said Clark.
Clark said the operations will expand to British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
He said Replant had the means to expand in 2020, but couldn't due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Clark is relying on an Atlantic Bubble for it to happen this year.
It's nice to think that the trees we're planting are good for just being trees - Jonathan Clark
Clark said Replant's environmental division, based in Sackville, planted 10,000 trees in New Brunswick in 2020. This year, it's goal is to plant 250,000 across the country.
"There's certainly demand for it, there's a lot of people who want to see more trees in Canada, partly because of the environment and partly because it's good for public recreation," he said.
He said donations are growing every year and, because of this will likely have the ability to plant 1 million trees within the next two years, but declined to give figures.
Clark said there are a handful of volunteers in New Brunswick who consider themselves professional tree planters. He expects to have a dozen volunteers in the province this year.
Group is working on 2 community forest projects
Replant's environmental division is currently working on two community forest projects in New Brunswick, that will take three years to complete.
These parks will have picnic areas and trails for public use.
Clark said another part of Replant's volunteer work involves buying privately-owned woodlots that have been harvested for firewood and other purposes. Once they're fully cleared, the owners no longer has a use for the land and typically look to sell the lots cheap.
He said he uses this opportunity to buy and refill these harvested plots.
"Our expectation is we don't want to let those trees be harvested in the future. We want to have a lot more forest that just becomes an old-grown forest eventually," he said.
"It's nice to think that the trees we're planting are good for just being trees."
He said Replant is looking to expand its operations through New Brunswick, by partnering with Fundy National Park and provincial parks throughout.
Replant contacts these parks offering to provide its volunteers and cover the cost to replenish the forests and add diversity in tree populations.
Current tree populations not sustainable
Balsam fir are New Brunswick's most common tree species, which are best-suited for extremely cold climates. As temperatures rise, this species becomes more vulnerable.
Clark said Replant is putting a focus on planting hardwood trees, including Birch and Mountain Ash species, as they're more adaptable to the climate, better at collecting and storing carbon, and are preferable for Canada's wildlife.
"This is good for climate change adaptation, certainly a lot of wildlife prefer to see hardwood trees," said Clark.
He said the challenge is these seedlings aren't popular or easy to find.
A longtime tree planter
Clark began his 30-year-long tree planting career travelling between British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Replant began as an educational website for prospering tree planters, to learn about job opportunities and planting techniques.
Clark said the company grew to offer larger scale commercial reforestation contracts and forestry consulting engagements.
Just a few years ago, he opened the environmental branch of Replant in Sackville.