Save our seedlings

Prov­ince plans to shut down the An­gus Seed Plant

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - NEWS - AN­GELA DORIE

Ear­lier this year an online pe­ti­tion ap­peared in my in­box and the topic stunned me.

The in­sti­ga­tor of the prob­lem didn’t, though: our pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, led by Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne, try­ing to qui­etly cut some cor­ners.

Last fall, it was de­cided the An­gus Seed Plant, lo­cated in An­gus, Ont., and oper­at­ing un­der the On­tario Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry would be closed ef­fec­tive Septem­ber 2018. Job-wise, this is not earth shat­ter­ing.

Six em­ploy­ees with spe­cial­ized train­ing and tal­ents, eight if you count Sammy and Pep­per, the “mouse con­trol tech­ni­cians” also em­ployed by the plant, will lose their jobs.

But the ac­tion cuts deeper than that.

The gov­ern­ment’s rea­son­ing is the seed plant has been oper­at­ing at only 20 per cent of its ca­pac­ity – plus the spe­cial­ized equip­ment is dated and the build­ing is old and in need of re­fur­bish­ing. On top of this, ap­par­ently the plant is los­ing about $1 mil­lion or more per year and this will rise if needed re­pairs and ren­o­va­tions are made.

The hope is a pri­vate com­pany might take over the work cur­rently be­ing done by the tree seed plant, al­low­ing the MNRF to fo­cus on merely sav­ing forestry ge­net­ics found in On­tario’s wood­lands— some­thing the plant has al­ready ac­com­plished in its stor­age fa­cil­ity.

If a gov­ern­ment funded en­tity can­not even break even, would a pri­vate buyer take on the same task for the same rev­enue? I think not. Seed prices will sky­rocket!

The not-for-profit tree seed col­lec­tion ser­vice was started in 1923 and was the sole sup­plier for On­tario’s re­for­esta­tion pro­jects. Seeds are col­lected from ma­ture, healthy spec­i­mens across the prov­ince, ex­tracted, sorted, tested and stored in freez­ers un­til or­dered by tree farms such as the Fer­gu­son For­est Cen­tre in Kemptville.

The rows of started tree seedlings can be seen from County Road 43 as you en­ter Kemptville from the east. If you have ever bought bun­dles of seedlings to plant on your prop­erty or been given a seedling to take home and plant, in all like­li­hood it orig­i­nally came from the An­gus Seed Plant.

They are, no doubt, the source of the over 400 trees sur­round­ing our farm­house and barns.

It is ob­vi­ous this fa­cil­ity was cre­ated and run for the good of the prov­ince’s forests and res­i­den­tial tree cov­er­age. The in­ten­tion never was to make a profit, as the process it­self is slow and painstak­ing.

The fees for seedlings are ei­ther charged to the pub­lic or ab­sorbed by con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties such as the Raisin River and South Na­tion con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties. The seedling-grow­ing farms such as the Fer­gu­son For­est Sta­tion by no means pay for the col­lec­tion of the seeds, and nei­ther were they ever in­tended to.

The ques­tion now will be who will sup­ply vi­able tree seeds and at what cost, or will the tree-seedling farms close and the tree give­aways cease due to the un­avail­abil­ity of rea­son­ably priced seeds?

This is a ser­vice to On­tario’s na­tive flora and fauna. A pri­vate com­pany set­ting up an equal ser­vice would no doubt put the pric­ing of indige­nous seeds out of the range of the av­er­age buyer – af­ter all, for them, prof­its would come first, not re­for­esta­tion.

We all know how much money the Wynne gov­ern­ment has squan­dered and wasted in inane, poorly thought out and un­needed pro­jects as well as by changes of mind. It is in the bil­lions of tax­pay­ers’ money.

In the grand scheme of things, sup­port­ing the con­tin­u­a­tion of the An­gus Tree Seed Sta­tion, which has al­ways been a non­profit and gov­ern­ment-sup­ported, op­er­a­tion, is a no-brainer. Given a choice, I would rather my tax dol­lars go there than for can­celled en­ergy plants, re­new­able en­ergy faux pas, pay­ing the U.S. to take ex­cess elec­tric­ity and the like.

As there was no pub­lic in­put sought in this clo­sure – even the mayor of An­gus didn’t know – it is im­por­tant the shut­ting down of the An­gus Seed Plant not take place in si­lence. If you would like to add your name to this pe­ti­tion, find it at: www.change.org/p/kath­leen-wynne-save-theon­tario-tree-seed-fa­cil­ity.

Let all lev­els of our present gov­ern­ment know they are be­ing closely watched.

GETTY IM­AGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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