Trees for Life is concerned with the health value of trees

View of Marie Curtis Park from upper floor of Aquaview Condominiums, 3865 Lake shore Blvd. West, November 2010. Jaan Pill photo

Whenever I hear about a project such as Trees for Life, I attend very closely.

The following information is from an October 26, 2012 Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) document (pp. 58-61), which you can access by clicking on the following link:

AuthorityAgenda#08-12_October26_2012

I recently attended an all-day conference in Toronto based on the concept discussed in this document. A report and online video based on the conference will follow. I find the following document highly valuable, as it establishes a frame of reference and introduces the key players.

The following information is from the Authority (that is, TRCA) Meeting #8/12

Chair: Gerri Lynn O’Connor
Vice Chair: Maria Augimeri
October 26, 2012, 9:30 A.M.
Weston Room B, Black Creek Pioneer Village

Item AUTH7.6

To: Chair and Members of the Authority
Meeting #8/12, October 26, 2012

From: Deborah Martin-Downs, Director, Ecology

Re: Trees For Life: A Campaign of Green Infrastructure Ontario

Key Issue

Approval to participate in Trees For Life to advance The Living City goals through urban forest sustainability.

Recommendation

Whereas Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) vision for The Living City is dependent on healthy and resilient urban forests;

And whereas TRCA has played an important role in the development of programs and strategies dedicated to the protection and enhancement of urban forests and natural systems, including local urban forest studies, the Terrestrial Natural Heritage System Strategy and the Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition;

And whereas TRCA staff has the expertise and partnership connections required to take a leadership role in collaborative efforts to advance the urban forest agenda in the Greater Toronto Area;

And whereas TRCA’s strong relationship with partner municipalities can help to ensure municipal interests and objectives are represented and achieved;

Therefore be it resolved TRCA staff be authorized to participate as a Steering Committee member and Co-ordinator in Trees For Life, a campaign of the Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition;

And further that staff report back to the Authority with progress as this initiative continues.

Background

Trees For Life (TLF) was formed in 2011 by Mark Cullen, horticultural expert, in response to threats to urban forest sustainability in the Toronto region, including the emerald ash borer and municipal budget constraints. The goal of TFL is to double the urban forest canopy in the Greater Toronto Area by 2050. TRCA was invited to participate in this coalition as a Steering Committee member together with the following organizations:

Mark Cullen: author of a weekly Toronto Star column, co-host of a weekly gardening segment on CTV’s Canada AM, spokesperson and horticultural consultant to Home Hardware and President of Mark’s Choice Ltd, a horticultural communications and marketing company (www.markcullen.com).

Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests (LEAF): an incorporated, not-for-profit, community-based organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of urban forests. LEAF programs focus on actively involving diverse communities in urban forest stewardship (www.yourleaf.org).

Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG): Toronto’s sole botanical garden founded in 1956, TBG connects people, plants and the natural world through education, inspiration and leadership (www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca).

Ontario Parks Association (OPA): a not-for-profit charitable foundation founded in 1936, OPA offers professional development, networking and advocacy opportunities for municipal parks employees across the province (www.ontarioparksassociation.ca).

Ontario Urban Forest Council: a not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to the health of urban forests across Ontario (www.oufc.org).

Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association (LOHTA): an association representing over 2,000 horticultural professionals. Members include landscape, maintenance and snow management contractors, landscape designers, lawn care operators, garden centre owners, arborists, nursery growers, interior landscapers, and irrigation and landscape lighting contractors (www.landscapeontario.com).

Trees Ontario: a not-for-profit organization committed to the greening of Ontario through tree-planting programs for rural and urban areas (www.treesontario.ca).

Toronto Park People: a registered charity dedicated to mobilizing all who care about parks to address the challenges now and work cooperatively together to make our parks the best they can possibly be (www.parkpeople.ca).

Evergreen: a registered national charity founded in 1991 with a mandate to bring nature to cities through naturalization projects. Evergreen motivates people to create and sustain healthy, natural outdoor spaces and gives them the practical tools to be successful (www.evergreen.ca).

TFL has outlined the following objectives:

  • to coordinate the activities and resources of not-for-profit organizations that are dedicated to tree planting and maintenance;
  • to solicit funds from government and private sources to invest in the urban forest and to ensure that the value of the monetary investment is maximized;
  • to take a pro-active role in legislative and government matters and work with the government to affect changes that benefit the urban forest;
  • to uphold strong governance policies to ensure a clear message of transparency, accountability and commitment to the protection, planting and maintenance of the urban forest; and
  • to communicate and educate the public on the core messages of urban forestry, including the societal, economic, health and wellness, and environmental benefits of the urban forest.

As momentum builds in this initiative, TFL is identifying the need for administrative, financial, and donor support, as well as areas suitable for planting that can meet the goal for increased urban forest cover.

Rationale

TRCA has offered administrative assistance to aid in the development of TFL. A proposal was made by TRCA to the Steering Committee of TFL recommending that TFL be positioned as a campaign of the Green Infrastructure Ontario (GIO) Coalition, a coalition of industry groups, nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions and local governments seeking enhanced provincial level recognition and protection for green infrastructure, including urban forests. This recommendation was agreed to by all TFL members.

The elements of this proposal were also discussed and supported by the Steering Committee of GIO, of which TRCA is a member. TRCA currently provides a staff member to GIO, largely paid for by GIO revenues, and who works under the guidance of TRCA. As a campaign of GIO, staff resources can be directed to assist this initiative.

TRCA will provide a coordinator for TFL as well as technical support for the selection of planting areas. These are activities that are already being undertaken by staff and will not represent a departure from current work plans. Funding for the coordinator will be largely provided by GIO and donations received through TFL. The staff time commitment will depend on available funding.

Participation in TFL presents an opportunity to work collaboratively toward a shared goal of urban forest protection and enhancement in TRCA’s jurisdiction. TFL directly supports the mission of GIO, and offers a logical progression from GIO’s provincial scale green infrastructure focus to a focus on regional urban forest issues. Establishing TFL as a campaign of GIO will yield the following benefits to members:

  • cohesion in messaging across all participating agencies facilitated by one steering committee common to both initiatives;
  • continued advocacy and momentum building from the existing foundation established by GIO;
  • use of resources of GIO, TRCA and The Living City Foundation for grant and proposal writing opportunities as well as a charitable status already available for donor campaign;
  • use of TRCA’s urban forest studies and strategies, therefore gaining access to data as well as the ensuing urban forest working groups formed to implement study recommendations;
  • use of TRCA programs to identify and implement urban forest planting opportunities; and
  • use of TRCA stewardship staff expertise to seek uptake on private lands.

The fulfillment of TFL’s goals and objectives will support TRCA’s vision for The Living City, and more specifically the objectives of multiple TRCA programs, including urban forest studies and strategies, Sustainable Neighbourhood Retrofit Action Plans (SNAP), Partners in Project Green (PPG), watershed plans and the Terrestrial Natural Heritage System Strategy.

Furthermore, a strong relationship with partner municipalities ensures that TRCA is well positioned to represent municipal interests and facilitate effective communication.

Details of work to be done

To guide this undertaking a Memorandum of Understanding for all TFL members will be developed at the outset. The coordinator will then create a business plan that will determine the governance model and structure to be used for this campaign, followed by a work plan and budget for the first year of operation. In addition, the coordinator may undertake the following tasks as needed:

  • work with TFL members to develop and implement a communication plan;
  • work with TRCA website manager to create TFL campaign sub-page on GIO website;
  • coordinate the “introduction” of TFL to GIO members and supporters through launch event and associated public and government relation activities;
  • report annually to TRCA management team/board on progress;
  • seek opportunities to spread the TFL message through presentations, attendance at symposiums and conferences, etc.

To celebrate and launch this campaign, TRCA and the Black Creek Conservation Project (BCCP) are coordinating a fall tree planting event at Archbishop Romero Catholic Secondary School. This collaborative effort will draw on volunteers from several TFL member organizations, notably Landscape Ontario, whose members are offering their time and equipment to plant more than 80 large caliper trees on the school grounds. Students of the school will also play a critical role by providing maintenance and long-term care.

Financial details

TRCA will provide a limited amount of initial funding to support the coordinator position through GIO and Ecology Division budgets. However, additional funding will be sought from TFL members and private donors to fully support TRCA’s administrative and technical role. TRCA office space and corporate systems will also be relied upon to support the initiative. Donations to TFL will be received through The Living City Foundation.

Report prepared by: Meaghan Eastwood, extension 5734
Emails: meastwood@trca.on.ca

For Information contact: Deborah Martin-Downs, extension 5706
Emails: dmartin-downs@trca.on.ca

 

Date: October 16, 2012

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