Opinion: Montreal shows the rest of Canada how to save urban trees

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Businesses and community partners are working together to help increase the city’s forest cover by 25 percent.

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While much of our national identity is linked to our natural environment, Canadians have not always taken the appropriate steps to preserve, protect and promote the urban forests that breathe so much life into our communities.

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Due to poor urban planning, climate change and invasive insects like the emerald ash borer, urban forest cover has experienced a precipitous decline in much of Canada over the past two decades. Worse yet, our government has been slow to respond; Canada lags considerably behind other G7 countries when it comes to the value we place on urban forests. In the United States, urban forest management is the responsibility of an individual equivalent to a Canadian deputy minister.

But important steps are being taken to redress the situation here. To help the city increase its urban tree cover to 25 percent – a target set years ago in Canopy action plan – Canadian National is leading a movement within the Montreal business community, working closely with other large companies and 40 community partners (known as Urban forest alliance) to plant 50,000 new trees and other plants in Montreal by 2022. This concrete gesture for the environment is part of a desire to improve the health of the population.

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I see this ambitious initiative as a model for cities across Canada, not only for its ambitious goals, but for the level of collaboration involved. Today, there is no shortage of eco-friendly businesses and community greening groups. But while these organizations often share a common vision, it is rare to get everyone to agree, pulling in the same direction to pursue the same goal.

However, with the support of Trees Canada – Canada’s premier tree charity – and the leadership of The Greening Society of Metropolitan Montreal (SOVERDI), CN was successful in bringing the public and private sectors together to create a Greening Leaders Committee.

For municipalities, the involvement of leading companies is vital for two reasons: First, partner companies can provide much-needed financing. Second, a large percentage of land suitable for urban forest restoration is privately owned (about 66% in Montreal). With much of this private land held by corporations and institutions, you can see why private sector support is paramount for an urban greening project of this magnitude.

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I think the public-private partnership model is something that communities and businesses across the country need to embrace if we are to refresh and restore Canada’s urban forest cover. Despite the lack of a national urban forest strategy – something Tree Canada has been calling for for years – Canada’s second largest city is now showing what is possible when the public and private sectors work together.

Thanks to corporate sponsorship from business leaders, Montrealers will soon benefit from all the social, psychological and economic benefits that trees provide to an urban center.

Trees, of course, are the infrastructure of the urban ecological environment, improving air quality, providing shade, capturing CO2, noise suppression, dust and water absorption, reduction of energy consumption and even improving the value of the property.

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Numerous studies have also shown that exposure to green spaces improves mental health and well-being immediately and over time, while researchers at the University of New Brunswick recently make a clear link between a green environment and a lower risk of premature death.

Finally, trees are a symbol of low-carbon cities, the bearer of a culture unique to a city, and a significant sign of urban development and cultural progress.

With four out of five Canadians now living in an urban center, it’s time for cities and businesses across Canada to follow Montreal’s lead and work together to build and maintain healthy and thriving urban forests in the cities and communities where we live.

Michael Rosen is President of Tree Canada, a charitable organization dedicated to tree planting and maintenance and to engaging communities, governments, businesses and individuals in the pursuit of a living environment. greener.

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