Forests are integral to vibrant and healthy communities and economies. From its office in the Toronto Entertainment District, Forests Ontario is making greenery a priority, planting the seeds (literally and figuratively) for a better future. Through immersive education programs and partnerships with leaders and educators across Ontario, it’s promoting awareness of the social, economic and ecological impact of forests – and enjoying everything the Toronto Entertainment District has to offer!
Whether you’re getting your hands dirty as part of its 50 Million Tree program or simply donating, there’s a ton of ways to get involved. We were lucky enough to chat with Forests Ontario about what it’s like working in the Toronto Entertainment District, educating the next generation about sustainability, the environmental perks of forestry and more!
Can you describe the nature of what Forests Ontario does?
Forests Ontario is a not-for-profit charity dedicated to re-greening the province through the support of forest restoration, stewardship, education and awareness. We promote Canada’s greatest natural resource – our forests – because healthy forests sustain healthy communities and healthy economies.
Tell us about the Forest Education programs. Why is education an important aspect of your mission?
Supporting the future of forests means supporting future forest stewards. That’s why Forests Ontario is passionate about connecting students with nature. Our education programs give young people hands-on stewardship experiences, and we’re proud to say that our programs reach more than 10,000 students and educators each year. Our education programs are built upon partnerships with educators and leaders in forestry and related fields. They are designed to inspire students and to nurture support of healthy ecosystems.
Our Forestry in the Classroom program connects volunteers with local schools and community groups, so students can learn firsthand what it’s like to make a career in forestry, from seed forecasting and management to research on the long-term effects of climate change. Since 2012, we’ve coordinated more than 450 visits to schools across Canada—which means over 13,000 students have been visited so far! Our forestry experts have years of knowledge and insight to share on how Canada’s forests are planned, managed and sustainably grown, and are eager to tell students about the wide range of possible careers.
Ontario Envirothon is an environmental competition for high school students that prepares them for careers in the environmental sciences. In teams, students study specific Envirothon learning materials and use what they’ve learned while competing in regional competitions. Winners move on to Provincial Championships and then an opportunity to compete in the North American competition.
Tree Bee is a tree identification tool used to engage classrooms, families and communities in learning more about the trees and forests in their own backyards. This tool enables everyone to get outdoors and learn what makes a maple different from an oak, or a spruce from a pine!
What’s the 50 Million Tree program and why is it important that we plant more trees? What does the future of planting trees look like going forward?
Forests Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program (50 MTP) is a tree planting program supported by the Government of Canada. The goal is to promote tree planting, forest stewardship, awareness and forestry education. By planting trees, we will increase forest cover and connect existing forests across Ontario. As of 2019, Forests Ontario has planted more than 27 million trees through the program, producing 15,000 hectares of new forest.
Planting trees is a practical way to clean our air, reduce the risk of floods and erosion, increase wildlife habitat, enhance recreational opportunities, and most importantly, improve the overall health of the environment for ours and future generations. Our health and well-being are intricately interconnected with the health of our natural environment, and trees and forests are integral components of healthy ecosystems that support healthy human populations.
How can individuals and organizations in the Toronto Entertainment District get involved with Forests Ontario?
There are many different ways that people can get involved with Forests Ontario. The first way is to become a member of Forests Ontario. Through membership you help to enhance our capacity to promote the social, economic and ecological importance of forests through forest restoration, stewardship, education and awareness. A strong membership base gives weight to our voice as we continue to address issues affecting the future of our forests with key stakeholders in government, public and private sectors.
The second way you can get involved is by donating. Donations to Forests Ontario go directly into our planting programs to help support our vision of a future of healthy forests sustaining healthy people, a flourishing environment and a robust economy for generations.
Forests Ontario also holds Community Tree Planting events every May, where individuals and families can come out and get their hands dirty by planting trees with us!
Does operating out of the Toronto Entertainment District impact your success?
Forests Ontario had previously been located in the north end of the city, and in 2011 we made the move downtown. Since moving downtown, we have enjoyed more opportunities to connect with like-minded organizations, as well as potential funders, corporate partners and government contacts, as many of them are located in the downtown core, so yes, it has impacted us in a positive way absolutely. It has also provided some of our staff with the opportunity to commute to work more effectively and efficiently, especially those living outside of the city.
What is the most rewarding thing about working with Forests Ontario?
The most rewarding thing about working at Forests Ontario would have to be that feeling of making a difference. The difference we are making in improving Ontario’s landscapes through reforestation, education, and creating awareness about the value and importance of Ontario’s forests, to all of us. The learning opportunities are also endless, especially working in a relatively small organization. You gain experience in many different areas that maybe you wouldn’t be exposed to if you were working in a much larger organization.
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