The local Community Forest Owners Cooperative pilot project is helping private owners to take care of their forests so these important spaces can thrive and evolve into more biodiverse systems that can help fight climate change.
“Normally, small woodlot owners don’t have access to managed forest professionals due to limited economies of scale,” said Ashley Fox, Assistant Environmental Advisor with OPG. “But through a co-op, these owners can come together to have their land assessed and harvested together. This leads to added carbon capture and healthier forests.”
As part of its Regional Biodiversity Program, OPG will help fund this initiative through a three-year commitment with the OWA, a non-profit organization that supports woodlot owners with sustainable management practices.
In southern Ontario, small woodlots were originally established as a way to rehabilitate previously deforested land. In many cases, these sites are not being thinned, which can lead to the complete collapse of the forest as it becomes too dense to support natural regeneration.
The new co-op provides an affordable means for landowners to access professional foresters and biologists, who can assess each woodlot for risk of tree disease and conduct cutting to make space for other native trees and shrubs to grow.
Cutting older trees allows for increased sun and nutrients to reach the ground, significantly increasing biodiversity in the forest and promoting increased carbon sequestration by adding new plants.
Local OWA chapters have already started cooperative pilots in Simcoe County and Kawartha Lakes, in collaboration with the Couchiching Conservancy, Simcoe County Forest and Kawartha Land Trust.
In addition to revitalizing forests, the co-op will help generate a modest profit for landowners, help them take advantage of carbon credits, and open up their rejuvenated spaces as wildlife corridors and trails for the public.