Justin Manasc, ForEco Silviculture, Knowlton, Tony Rotherham, retired forester
Drive around the hills of Brome County and you will see lots of old fields where active agriculture is being abandoned and the land is regenerating to shrubs and brush. Many early settlers were granted land that was not suitable for modern agriculture. Abandoned fields make no contribution to the rural economy. The Federal Government has a program to plant two billion trees to fight climate change. As they grow, trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, sequester the carbon in the wood and release the oxygen back into the air. It works. One cubic meter of solid wood contains about as much carbon as is produced during the combustion of 300 litres of gasoline. Spruce and pine plantations produce about 10-15 cubic meters of wood per hectare each year.
If we plant trees on this land and manage them well, we will increase the habitat for forest-dependent species like deer and moose, slow the rate of melting snow in the spring allowing more water to soak into the soil, feeding the water table and reducing spring floods and summer droughts. After about 35 years of growth the plantations will add to the supply of wood for local sawmills and support employment.
It costs about $1,600 to plant 2,000 trees on a hectare (2.5 acres) of old field. Site preparation and weeding may add to the cost but the provincial program for the development of private woodlots will cover 80% of the costs on land that has low agricultural potential. To be eligible, landowners must own at least four hectares of wooded land and have a 10-year forest management plan prepared by an accredited forester. The federal program helps to finance these projects. Do you have an old field that should be planted with trees?