ERCA celebrating the planting of its six millionth tree



Six Millionth Tree1By Ron Giofu


The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) planted a tree on National Tree Day but it was no ordinary tree.

The six millionth tree planted by ERCA since the authority’s inception in 1973 was celebrated at the planting site on the grounds of the Essex Civic Centre. The milestone was celebrated by volunteers, partners and supporters of ERCA.

Ray Renaud, a current board member and a former ERCA chair, noted that when ERCA was founded in 1973, the area had less than 3.5 per cent forested land. Six million trees and 40 years later, forest coverage now sits at 5.4 per cent with the percentage of natural areas totaling 8.5 per cent.

Twelve per cent natural cover is the United Nations recommendation that ERCA is targeting.

“What a tremendous achievement we are here to celebrate,” Renaud told the crowd assembled.

Friends of Watersheds groups, land owners, businesses and other community partners have played an important role, noted Renaud.

“With most of southern Ontario’s land base held in private ownership, without these important partnerships, these strides towards sustainability would not take place,” he said.

Renaud also pointed out the significance of six million trees by making several comparisons.

“That’s enough trees to fill every seat in the WFCU Centre Arena 923 times, sequester more than 461,500 pounds of carbon from our atmosphere every single year, and replace 500,000 tons of paper,” Renaud added.

“Six million trees is a big number,” said Essex MP Jeff Watson.

Watson pointed out more work needs to be done to hit the 12 per cent target but “every milestone is worth celebrating.” He too said partnerships are vital and noted there are many plant and animal species at risk in this region.

Celebrating private partnerships is important, he added, as a stewardship mentality has to be cultivated for the long run.

ERCA general manager Richard Wyma encouraged people to “imagine what Essex County would look like without the six million trees” and said everyone has had a role to play in getting to that milestone.

ERCA also continued to honour community citizens as part of ongoing efforts to recognize 40 “Conservation Champions” in the authority’s anniversary year. Gerry Waldron and Phil Roberts were recognized as part of Wednesday’s ceremony.

Wyma described Waldron as a local expert ecologist with over 40 years experience in the fields of environmental planning and field biology. He has worked with all three levels of government and numerous organizations, and managed his own environmental consulting firm in Amherstburg, Wyma noted.

Waldron has been the author of “several authoritative books on the flora of the Essex Region and the trees within the Carolinian Canada life zone” and “continues to display unparalleled dedication” to the conservation of natural resources within the Essex Region.

Roberts grew up as an environmentalist and in his senior year of high school, helped to form the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club, where he eventually served as president for many years, Wyma stated.

Roberts was credited for his leadership with the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory, with it being termed “longstanding.”

“He coordinated the banding program and constructed the banding stations for migration data collection for many years and in 2000, he enabled the HBMO to establish a songbird banding station, one of the first stations where Hummingbirds were permitted to be banded,” the ERCA GM said.

It was also pointed out that Roberts has introduced thousands of adults and young people alike to the joys of birding and nature and hosted a “Nature Guy” radio segment on CBC, and led both the Destination Eagle initiative and a Prothonotary warbler habitat restoration project to improve habitat for these two endangered species.

Roberts continues to lend his time to many environmental organizations, including the Windsor Essex Environment Committee, the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup, the Essex County Field Naturalists Club and the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory.  He has been described as “key in sharing his expertise for conservation area development at ERCA.”  In his current role as the operations manager for Your Quick Gateway, he helps protect animals from planes, and vice versa.

“It is meaningful that we recognize both Gerry and Phil here today, at the celebration of our six millionth tree,” said Wyma.  “Both of these individuals have made significant contributions in protecting and restoring the natural environment of the Essex Region, and we are pleased to honour them as Conservation Champions.

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