Home » Environment » Protecting Canada's Forests » Q&A With Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson
Protecting Canada's Forests

Q&A With Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson

What are the key objectives of Canada’s 2 Billion Tree Program and how does it align with the broader goals of preserving and safeguarding our country’s valuable forested landscapes?

Canada’s 2 Billion Trees Program is a part of recognizing that while nature may be under threat by climate change, it is also an ally in the fight against it. Nature-based climate solutions such as the 2 Billion Trees Program harness the power of nature to reduce emissions, increase human well-being, and protect biodiversity. By investing up to $3.2 billion in tree planting efforts across sectors and levels of government with the goal of planting two billion trees over 10 years and growing Canada’s forest cover by an area twice the size of Prince Edward Island, we are taking a significant step forward in our fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

The program speaks directly to our objectives of preserving and safeguarding Canada’s natural landscape by enhancing ecosystems and natural areas across Canada, on provincial and federal Crown lands, in cities and communities, on farms and on private rural and urban lands.

The co-benefits of the program are numerous. Forests capture and store large amounts of carbon (CO2), which will clean the air Canadians breathe and water we drink, and cut pollution. The forests we plant will also make communities more resilient to extreme weather and create thousands of jobs for tree planters, technicians, nursery growers, field biologists, urban planners, and many others. Not only that, but healthy forest ecosystems are also a bedrock of Canadian biodiversity, so planting and enhancing forestry will give a home to thousands of living organisms. Finally, forests supply us with food, provide shelter and shade, and hold spiritual significance for many, particularly within Indigenous cultures.

How is the 2 Billion Trees Program addressing forest loss as a result of Canada’s recent wildfires?

The planting of trees following wildfires is a critical part of ensuring that Canada’s forests remain vibrant and healthy for generations to come. It is especially important given this year’s unprecedented and challenging wildfire season. Projects that plant trees in areas affected by fires, pests, or weather can and have been part of the program, if there’s no legal requirement to replant those trees.

About a quarter of trees planted through partnerships that NRCan established with 2 Billion Trees funding recipients were planted in areas affected by wildfires, and we are actively exploring how future planting under this program can help reforest areas that have been impacted by this year’s wildfires.

In August, the federal government announced a bundle of 2 Billion Trees projectsspecifically designed to reforest areas impacted by wildfires. This represented a total funding commitment of over $60 million to plant 35 million trees.

Prior to that, in April, the federal government announced a contribution of $331,000 under the 2 Billion Trees program to the Nk’Mip Forestry LLP’s Osoyoos Indian Band Nk’Mip Creek Wildfire Restoration project. The funding will be used to plant 70,000 trees on the Osoyoos Indian Band Reserve land that was burnt during the 2021 Nk’Mip Creek wildfire. This project will engage Elders and community members to plant trees on their land, grow trees at the local nursery, conduct post-planting surveys, and collect cones and seeds. Additionally, the project will restore wildlife habitat and re-establish critical habitat for species at risk, reduce the risk of wildfire for local communities, sequester carbon and create local employment opportunities.

In what ways is the 2 Billion Tree Program fostering collaboration between various stakeholders, including Indigenous communities, local governments, and environmental organizations, to ensure the success of this ambitious initiative in promoting the health and longevity of Canada’s forests?

Collaboration is crucial to the 2 Billion Trees program, which was stood up to support provinces, territories, non-government organizations, Indigenous communities, municipalities, private landowners and others in the fight to protect and preserve Canada’s nature and biodiversity for generations to come. The supply chain involved with the two-billion tree goal is complex, involving many stakeholders, such as landowners, seed collectors, nurseries, silviculture workers and experts who understand how to grow and plant the right trees in the right place and for the right reasons.

To this end, since the program began, the Government has signed dozens of contribution agreements with organizations and Indigenous communities, seven Agreements in Principle (AiPs) with provinces and territories, and six long-term Contribution Agreements with provinces and territories.

As forestry is generally an area of provincial jurisdiction, the Government of Canada has been working closely with provinces and territories. The seven AiPs with British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon, as well as six initial contribution agreements with provinces and territories, serve as a strong foundation for future agreements and discussions.

As well, working with Environment and Climate Change Canada, the 2 Billion Trees Program developed materials for provinces and territories on where tree planting could have a strong impact on advancing biodiversity (e.g. species-at-risk maps) and is continuing to develop further guidance for all planting activities in this area to enhance reporting on biodiversity benefits.

We are also working in active collaboration with Indigenous and private partners. We have stood up an Indigenous Collaboration Working Group to ensure our work with Indigenous Peoples is effective and reflects the government’s commitment to reconciliation. Natural Resources Canada’s (@NRCan) Natural Smart Climate Solutions Fund also works with Indigenous partners to streamline application and reporting processes, remove barriers to access funding, and co-develop an inclusive governance model for the Indigenous funding stream. We are seeing results from this: during the Program’s first planting season, one in every five projects was Indigenous-led.

What steps and actions can Canadians take to make a meaningful difference in the effort to protect and conserve Canada’s forests?

The government of Canada is always encouraging Canadians to take an active role in protecting and conserving our country’s natural beauty and resources. Whether it is tree-planting, enjoying our national parks, or making emissions-conscious choices in your own life, there are many ways everyone can play a part in conservation and nature-based solutions to the climate crisis we’re living in. We encourage Canadians to get in touch with organizations working on nature protection and conservation in their local communities to see what they can do to help with our common mission of ensuring generations of Canadians to come can enjoy the forests Canada is famous for.

Next article