Today, in recognition of National Tree Day, my office is one of 31 London businesses and organizations that are distributing free seedlings to Londoners. I want to congratulate ReForest London for coordinating this initiative to grow London’s tree canopy and to bring the Forest City closer to our million-tree goal.
National Tree Day raises awareness of the enormous benefits of trees, which include cleaner air, reduced energy consumption, increased property values, improved health outcomes and stronger neighbourhood connections. There are social justice benefits as well. Research shows that planting trees in disadvantaged neighbourhoods is a key poverty reduction strategy. For all these reasons and more, in 2014 the city of London released its Urban Forest Strategy, a comprehensive 20-year road map to protect and enhance our city’s urban forest. The strategy recognizes that urban forests are vital infrastructure assets, as valuable and worthy of investment as roads and bridges.
Yet, in many communities, urban forests are under attack from urban sprawl, invasive pests and severe weather events. Many municipalities do not have the resources they need to proactively manage their urban forests. Without coordination, research and funding from higher levels of government, they are effectively on their own. On this National Tree Day, I urge the government to invest in urban forest assets and green infrastructure, and to support municipalities in maintaining and enhancing Ontario’s urban forests for generations to come.