Greening China - Canadian trees takes root in China



Ontario's official tree, the Eastern White Pine, has found a new home in China.

It's one of several several tree species that Canadian companies like Maple Leaf Reforestation (MLR) and the Sino-Forest Corporation (SFC) are producing in China as part of a massive reforestation effort.

China said in its most recent five-year plan that it aims to add 31-million acres of forest by 2015. In 2005, China said that it plans to increase its area of forest by 98-million acres by 2020.

Most of China's forest has been cut down to create land for its enormous population and to produce timber. Until recently, not much attention was paid to the long-term effects.

MLR, which produces about 16-million seedlings per year and is in the process of expanding, is one of many companies creating tree plantations in China.

'Maple Leaf's primary mission is to provide top quality, value added nursery seedlings and modern Canadian tree growing technology to assist China in solving its desertification problems,' wrote Raymond Lai, the company's president, on the companies website.

In the next two years, the company is expanding from one greenhouse to three, tripling its seedling production.

MLR has also secured two 330-acre parcels of land from the Inner Mongolia government. One will be used to grow 100-million trees, and the other will be used to grow seedlings.

The company produces several types of tree seedlings, including Jack Pine, which can be found all over Canada east of the Rocky Mountains.

SFC is another company based in Canada that owns and manages tree plantations in China. Its plantations have nearly 800,000 hectares of trees, and the company plans to plant 200,000 more by 2012.

'The Corporation believes in sustainable development - satisfying the needs of today without compromising the environmental resources needed by future generations - thereby sensibly preserving nature's capital,' the company says on its website.

In 2004, SFC received a certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, an international non-profit organization created to promote responsible management of the world's forests.

Planting forests has proven to be a successful solution to the desertification problem in China, and carbon-dioxide-sequestering trees can also prevent climate change.

China has been trying hard in the last few decades to make up for centuries of destroying its forests, and has welcomed foreign reforestation companies like MLR and SFC.

As well as encouraging reforestation organizations to plant trees, China has also been encouraging its own citizens to take action.

In 1981, China's top legislative body passed a resolution to make anyone over the age of 11 plant three saplings each year. It also offers cash incentives to farmers who plant trees on land that has been taken over by desert.

Thousands of kilometers of grassland are taken over by desert each year in China, and large dust storms make their way into the cities and ruin agricultural crops.

According to a 2006 report to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification by China, 27 per cent of its land mass was covered by desert. In 1994, 18 per cent was covered.

Creating forests will have other positive effects, as well. A Worldwatch Institute report says that planting new trees could create new jobs.

The report estimates that in the year 2020 alone, over one million new jobs will be available in the forestry, power generation and transportation sectors as a result of reforestation projects.

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