He's one in a million
When it comes to the environment, they say one person can’t make a difference. Our problems seem too large to be solved. But that’s just looking at the problems from the wrong perspective. Our small actions do add up and the difference one person can make is tremendous.
Paul Cottenden is a shining example of how someone’s actions, taken over the course of decades, has made an immense contribution to this planet.
Paul estimates he has planted one million trees over the course of his lifetime. That’s right – one million trees. And he’s not done yet!
LSRCA's own one million tree planter - Paul Cottenden stands amongst these conifers - trees he planted around 10 years ago that are now taller than he is.
Paul has been a Forest Technician with Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority for the past 19 years, but has been working in the forestry business for 38 years.
His foray into tree planting began in childhood. In fact, Paul's first recollection of planting a tree was when he was just eight years old when he participated in a tree planting as a cub scout. Paul still remembers the kind of tree it was… a Red Oak. “I bet that tree is over 40 feet tall now”, Paul reminisces.
Paul’s career in tree planting began with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) in Parry Sound, where his first tree planted was a Red Pine. He worked for the MNRF for a few years and then decided to formalize his education by getting his Forest Technologist diploma. Despite the fact that after school he was told he wouldn’t plant trees anymore, but oversee tree planting instead, he always found himself in jobs where he was planting. “I was just really good at planting trees and had a passion for it and my enthusiasm rubbed off on other people.” Paul says. “It’s very satisfying work especially when you can go back a few years later and see the trees growing strong and creating a forest.”
Paul took on a variety of field roles in both the public and private sector, eventually landing a job with Grey Sauble Conservation Authority, as a Forest Technician, where he stayed for 10 years, before coming to Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, where he’s been ever since.
These days, Paul’s main goal as a Forest Technician with LSRCA is to offer support and assistance for large scale plantings for residents with large properties. “There are many great reasons for people with acreage to forest them” Paul says. “Besides getting advice from experts like me, there are financial incentives to planting trees - like decreased property taxes” he adds.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, 66% (71 million hectares) of the province of Ontario is forested. In the Lake Simcoe watershed, the statistic is not quite as high. Currently, 35% of the watershed is under canopy cover, and Paul is part of a team working hard to bring that number up. And he’s certainly doing more than his fair share.
Paul believes the best way to improve tree planting is to provide planting incentives, like the 50 Million Tree Program, now being funded by the Federal government for the next four years. “These programs support people not just financially – they provide guidance and expertise so it’s not all just on their backs to do the planting themselves. I think people want to do it (plant trees), but it’s a fairly expensive undertaking.” Paul adds.
Paul's favourite Bur Oak tree, found in Aurora.
Paul still hears from residents who recall the planting days of the 70s, when they could get trees planted through government funded nurseries for a penny a tree. Unfortunately government funded nurseries were cancelled in 1995 and tree nurseries are all privately owned now.
Love for the earth really does start in youth
Paul attributes his love for trees and tree planting to his experiences as a cub scout and later a boy scout. “They did tree planting projects every year, and I just really enjoyed it. I loved the outdoors and trees.” Paul says.
Later on, when deciding what he wanted to do with his life, Paul recalls his father saying “Just make sure you do something you can look back at and say that you made a difference for the world”. “That’s just the way he raised me”, Paul says. “When I look back and think that I planted so many trees… I think I’ve made a positive impact on this planet.”
Paul’s favourite tree is a Bur Oak, because it’s so long-lived. In fact his favourite Bur Oak can be found in Aurora, off Industrial Parkway, just south of St. John’s Sideroad. A giant Bur Oak sits on the edge of the dog park that Paul estimates to be at least 150 years old. “It’s an absolutely majestic and beautiful tree with a bit of a lean to it… It’s one of my favourite trees in the watershed.”
Planting has never been easier
The team at LSRCA has more than 90 years of experience planting trees! We know soils, what grows best and we love to share planting tips! Learn more about
funding for tree planting.