Steve Hounsell of Ontario Power Generation was a featured speaker at the unveiling ceremony. OPG is providing financial support for the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority's tree planting programs through its Biodiversity and Carbon Sequestration Program. Steve and his program were recognized in 2001 with a Carolinian Canada Conservation Award. Steve is a tireless promoter of the Big Picture approach to conservation.
Catfish Creek Conservation Authority
Annual General Meeting
February 19, 2002
Steve Hounsell, Ontario Power Generation
Good afternoon. I thank you for the invitation and opportunity to spend a little time with you and to offer a few words about a very positive partnership that our two organizations have embarked upon.
Thanks to Ric Wellwood and his book on your Authority, I have a much better sense of the history of your region, where you have come from and where you are going as an organization. Your historical and present commitment to conservation and stewardship is clear. We are pleased to help you in that commitment as we look to the future.
As you all well know, the landscapes and watersheds of southern Ontario, and indeed this region, have undergone dramatic changes since the time of early settlement. The historical character of your watersheds was vastly different than the present. Those changes have affected both water supplies and water quality, so much so that it precipitated the formation of the Conservation Authorities and indeed your own Authority back in 1950. The loss and fragmentation of habitat also had dramatic effects on the floral and fauna of your region, to the extent that we now live in one of the most imperiled regions in all of Canada.
In brief, we have greatly exceeded the natural regenerative and waste assimilation capacities of our regions and your watersheds. Hence the need for your Authority, and others, to help change the trajectory to one of conservation, stewardship and recovery. We are still on that trajectory, and we still have a long ways to go, but at least we are moving in the right direction. We are moving towards what could be - a revitalized region of vibrant ecosystems and watersheds. We need healthy ecosystems that are capable of supporting nature’s natural biological diversity and capable of sustaining a healthy humanity, and economic enterprise. That is a goal well worth pursuing and a goal that is in everyone’s interest.
Fortunately, we are getting much help for our journey. The work of many other organizations, such as Carolinian Canada and their work on the "Big Picture", are assisting us in that effort. That big-picture helps to inform as to where we should be investing our efforts to maximize our conservation gains. It is a grand plan that provides strategic guidance to our conservation efforts. It is a plan that I believe in.
If we are serious about achieving a healthier future, a future that recognizes that we are a part of nature, and ultimately sustained by its services, then we all must be part of that effort. And I like to think that we, at Ontario Power Generation, are doing our part.
Since 1990, OPG and our predecessor Ontario Hydro have spent about $2 billion to improve environmental performance. Those initiatives included substantial investments in equipment to reduce air and water emissions at our plants, as well as major programs for protecting and managing the habitats at all our major generating sites and adjacent areas. In fact, we were the first utility in North America to have developed and implemented a policy on biodiversity conservation. We now have Award-winning (Wildlife Habitat Council) biodiversity management plans at each of our major stations that do involve habitat protection and restoration. And through our carbon sequestration and biodiversity management program, we now have the ability to selectively engage in meaningful habitat restoration activities right across the southern Ontario landscape. That is where your Authority, and several other partners, come into the picture.
Our financial support for your Authority is another example of our environmental commitment. The forest restoration work that you will be undertaking will help restore vital ecological services within your watersheds and help provide much needed habitat for species that have been declining in the face of habitat loss and fragmentation throughout the region. The benefits of this program are vast and include:
* the sequestration of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change;
* provision of much needed habitat for the recovery of populations of woodland dependent species that have been declining throughout this region;
* bulking up key forested areas to address the special habitat needs of area-sensitive wildlife and forest-interior specialists that are rare in this region; and
* connecting woodland patches in an effort to reconnect a heavily fragmented landscape. This will facilitate the movement of species throughout the region and will help to ensure that their populations remain viable.
This program will also promote ecosystem health through buffer plantings along riparian habitats, which not only serve as natural habitat corridors but can also help improve water quality. Yes, the planting of trees will trap carbon, but it also provides many vital ecological services as it replenishes oxygen, stabilizes soils, and traps and recycles various elements and nutrients through the endless cycle of life.
Your forest restoration activities will not only enhance local ecosystems, they contribute to a broader effort on our part to plant 1.6 million native trees and shrubs throughout southern Ontario by the end of 2005. Our program was just launched in the spring of 2000. By the end of the planting season this spring, we will have planted well over 1 million genetically appropriate native trees and shrubs at strategic locations across southern Ontario, helping make that Big-Picture vision of Carolinian Canada more and more of a reality. Your work here is an important contribution to that accomplishment. And thanks to the support and feedback from organizations such as yourselves, your sister Conservation Authorities, and Carolinian Canada, our program has been extended beyond 2005. This program is a multiple win program. OPG is starting to recognize this. We need to build upon this successful foundation.
When complete, our tree planting activities will sequester an estimated 900,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the trees, thereby helping to reduce global warming. Make no mistake, this, in itself, is not the solution to our emissions, or to climate change, but it does contribute to the solution and buys us a little time as we look to new, and more benign technologies, for electricity generation.
As a company committed to sustainable development and to enhancing the quality of life of communities where we operate, OPG is proud to have participated in this worthwhile project. To this end, we are pleased to have contributed $112,500 for the planting of 75,000 trees on key sites within your watershed. We look forward to a continued productive and mutually beneficial relationship with yourselves and the landowners who are making this all possible.