St. Clair authority looking to book tree planting, wetland projects

Rural landowners looking to book tree planting or wetland projects next year should contact the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, officials say.

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“We plant between 50,000 and 70,000 seedlings every spring, and then on the wetlands side, we’re conducting anywhere between 12 to 20 wetland projects in a year,” said conservation services specialist Jeff Sharp.

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“We’re busy right now meeting with landowners,” he said. “We’ve had a few calls.”

Projects can help reduce soil erosion, increase crop yields, protect rural water quality and potentially reduce the amount of fertilizer needed for crops, officials said, noting it can also improve habitat for plants and animals, including species at risk, to thrive.

The authority has specialized equipment for tree planting, and typically plants 800 seedlings per acre (2,000 per hectare), Sharp said.

The Forests Ontario program delivery-agent organization also receives federal and provincial funding for projects, he said.

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Generally, that means 80 to 90 per cent of project costs are covered by grants, he said, noting the authority contracts for wetlands work.

“We don’t have the heavy equipment needed for excavating,” he said.

Calls that come in later in the winter for projects generally get deferred to the following year, he said.

The authority, which includes the Sydenham River watershed, has planted more than four million trees and created 100 hectares (250 acres) of wetland since 1980 thanks to property owners taking on naturalization projects, he said.

Erosion control projects can also include berms to manage overland flow, and wetland naturalization may be suited for sections that are already wet, he said.

The St. Clair Region watershed is 80 per cent agricultural land, officials said.

Tree canopy coverage in Lambton County is 13.44 per cent, about half the recommended level for a healthy environment, county officials have said.

For more information, contact Sharp at 519-245-3710, ext. 217, gold [email protected], or the authority’s Jessica Van Zwol at ext. 241 gold [email protected].

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