Ministry Announced the closure of the Ontario Tree Seed Plant
On August 23 2017, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) announced the closure of the Ontario Tree Seed Plant, effective September 2018.The Ontario Tree Seed Plant and its public seed bank provide genetically appropriate seed for reforestation on Ontario's Crown land, afforestation planting programs such as the 50 Million Tree Program and Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program on private land, and an open service available to all Ontarians, from landowners to school groups to growers, to purchase a variety of native species' seeds at a reasonable cost for any project. Since 1923, this unique facility and its staff have provided expertise and best practices to ensure high quality, source-identified seed is translated into successful planting projects that preserve Ontario's biodiversity, protect our water, air and soils, and support jobs in the nursery, forestry and wood manufacturing sectors. Read about the Ontario Tree Seed Plant's 90th Anniversary Celebration here. In response to the August 23rd closure notice, the Ontario Tree Seed Coalition quickly formed from concerns users of the OTSP. In the last two months, Coalition members have made the following recommendations to the Minister of MNRF:
- MNRF to work with the Seed Coalition and other stakeholders to develop a transition plan to ensure continuation of the critical services provided by the Ontario Tree Seed Plant beyond the September 2018 deadline;
- Ensure the chain-of-custody for seed in Ontario is not disrupted in the transition process;
- Ensure the continuous supply of biologically appropriate seed, so Ontario’s reforestation and afforestation practitioners can react and adapt to a changing climate;
- Secure the seed bank currently being managed for the public good by MNRF to facilitate the above options for Ontario practitioners.
Having a Meeting or Conference?Download Informational Poster and Petition for 25+ Signatures to mail to MPP Jim Wilson
Concerned Organization?Download Letter Template to Ontario Govt re Seed Plant Closure Nov 1 2017 Read FGCA's Letter to the Ontario Government Re: Ontario Tree Seed Plant Closure (November 2, 2017), also posted in full on the AWARE Simcoe website.
Links to other recent news on the Ontario Tree Seed Plant: November 15, 2017: MPP Jim Wilson questions government again over the Ontario Tree Seed Plant closure The Working Forest, November 9, 2017: Closing Seed Facility Risks Forests' Future CBC Radio's Ontario Morning with Wei Chan, October 13, 2017, forward to 15:00 Simcoe.com, October 7, 2017: MPP Jim Wilson wants province to re-think closure of Angus seed plant CTV News Barrie, August 28, 2017: Major seed distributor to be shut down in 2018 For questions, comments or feedback, please contact: Barb Boysen FGCA General Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org Melissa Spearing, Seed Program Coordinator email@example.com Please continue reading about the history and importance of this facility below. _____________________________________________________________________ By Barb Boysen and Melissa Spearing Who sees Ontario’s forest for the trees? Are they healthy? Are they regenerating? If not, and if tree planting efforts cannot keep up, we may lose the native forests and canopy that conserve our soil and water, clean our air and moderate our climate, no matter what pressures come. What about the future forests? How many of us see seedlings in the forest or seed on the trees? Do your kids know acorns come from oaks? Do you know it takes pines and red oak two years to develop seeds but only one for white oak and spruce? That most species don’t produce seed every year? Though most people love trees, few understand these natural patterns and complexities involved in planting. Seed is the basis of forest restoration and its steady patterns may be threatened by climate change. The Ontario Tree Seed Plant (OTSP) has been the provincial centre of operational tree seed expertise since 1923. At that time, growing deserts in southern Ontario prompted Premier Ernest Drury and Chief Forester Edmund Zavitz to establish county forests, provincial parks and a large, successful afforestation program using local seed produced in local nurseries. John Bacher’s Two Billion Trees and Counting describes the partnership as:
“…one of the rare cases in forestry when the combination of professional knowledge and political commitment established a process that provided long-term benefits to future generations. Homegrown stock was produced to avoid further disasters stemming from importation from the United States [and] stock contaminated with blister rust, which had come from Germany.”Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) staff coordinated all aspects of seed for the government’s forestry programs that annually planted over 100 million trees on Crown Land and up to 20 million on private land in southern Ontario, all from seeds processed at the OTSP. Those trees became the forests that today are visible on Google Maps, benefitting millions of Ontarians with sustainable timber products, wildlife habitat, and areas for recreation and leisure. In the mid-90s, government cutbacks ran deep and we lost the MNR reforestation program. The nurseries Drury and Zavitz established were sold and the Seed Plant was to be privatized. In 1998, the Forest Gene Conservation Association (FGCA) worked with stakeholders to help MNR management understand that tree seed expertise and banking is a big picture commitment. Even private nurseries argued for the Seed Plant to be kept. Only the provincial government could, or effectively would take on this responsibility. In 1999, MNR leadership decided to keep the OTSP to help ensure seed would be genetically adapted to local planting sites. This centre of seed processing, purchasing and sales made it easier to monitor and influence the seed sources used on the landscape. Consumers trusted what they were buying and didn’t have to turn to US seed houses, which rarely identified source information. With this support, tree nurseries were also able to increase the planting of locally adapted trees for urban planting programs. The OTSP's services and seed banking capabilities were the foundation for the 50 Million Tree Program in 2007. Almost 20 years later, we’re in crisis again with the announcement that the OTSP will close in September 2018. FGCA, Forest Ontario, Sustainable Forest License holders, growers and planting partners are concerned about the implications.
- Where will clients move their millions of stored seeds?
- Where will next year’s crops be processed and banked? The cyclical nature of good seed crops in most tree species means growers cannot depend on having fresh seed the year he/she needs it.
- Who will communicate with local seed collectors?
- Who will consistently monitor and test seed quality?
- Will anyone manage the long-term seed bank that is required for an uncertain future, that no one private organization would invest in?
- Eroding the social, stewardship and cultural heritage values and equality we associate with healthy forests and the broader natural environment
- Increased public health costs in relation to mental health, sedentary lifestyles and childhood development, and inequitable access to nature between wealthy and impoverished communities
- Declining environmental quality indicators where tree cover protects water quality, soil carbon stocks and filters air of pollutants
- Decreasing agricultural yields due to soil erosion, wind and loss of habitat for beneficial pollinator species
- Increased exposure to extreme weather events, including more homes and businesses at risk of flood damage
- Losing scalable economic opportunities and future adaptation options in the forestry sector and rural areas, including diversified agriculture, emerging wood bioenergy and carbon offset markets
- Continued loss or regional extinction of native and at-risk species (birds, mammals, amphibians, insects, and minor plant species in particular) dependent upon Ontario’s forested landscapes and a breakdown of natural heritage systems to facilitate gene flow along natural migration pathways
- Continued intrusion of invasive species on natural and managed lands, thus increasing economic impact and costs for research, control and eradication efforts