I would like to share the story of Edmund Zavitz, the man known as Ontario’s Father of Reforestation. Throughout the 1800’s the endless forests across the Province were being systematically clear-cut by immigrants as they opened up new farmland. The wealth generated from the land was temporary, however, and as the forests were stripped away, parts of the Province had become desert-like, with farms lost to flooding, soil erosion, dust storms and fire.
Edmund Prout, an immigrant from England with an appreciation of nature, recognized the need for action and together with his family and friends started planting trees to stabilize the soil, and convinced neighbours to do the same. Prout passed on this appreciation of nature to his grandson, Edmund Zavitz, a McMaster graduate (1903) who went on to become Ontario’s first Chief Forester. Zavitz was largely responsible for the restoring much of the forest cover that we enjoy today. A month before Zavitz passed away, the billionth tree was planted by Premier John Robarts. Since then, another billion trees have been planted.
This inspiring story brings to mind the legacy behind the Veldhuis Restoration, the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s contribution to the Cootes to the Escarpment Eco-Park System and other similar projects within our watersheds. I have a two-year old grandson growing up in Dundas, and hope to pass on to him the same sense of responsible stewardship that Edmund Prout did with his grandson more than a century ago.
Chairman, Hamilton Conservation Foundation