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How to help Canada’s forests, one tree at a time

Volunteering at Nature Conservancy of Canada

This may come as a shock to you, but working for Cottage Life doesn’t mean we spend our weekdays on a dock, drink in hand, waiting for the bass to bite.

We certainly get to visit some incredible cottages and cabins, but we spend most of our time at desks, pouring over layouts and—yawn—interviewing experts on napping.

Which is why earlier this fall, we jumped at the chance to spend a gorgeous day outdoors in Happy Valley, planting trees with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Nestled in King Township, Ontario, the Happy Valley forest represents the largest area of deciduous forest on the Oak Ridges Moraine (8,737 hectares to be exact), and it’s expected to achieve old-growth status within the next 100 years. It’s also an important ecological haven for a wide array of plants and animals. Since the forest itself is home to 30 at-risk species, NCC is committed to this important ecosystem amid the urban growth of the Greater Toronto Area that surrounds it—and we’re committed to helping.

Upon arriving in Happy Valley, we met with NCC staff, who gave us a quick rundown of the different insects and plant species we’d encounter throughout the day. Since climate change is creating a longer tick season in Ontario, they advised us to tuck our pants into our socks to avoid tick bites.

We enjoyed a 20-minute walk through the forest to the area we’d be planting in, and then the staff divided us into “lobbers” (who clip the invasive species) and tree planters. Tree planters had to dig holes, place saplings in them, fill the holes, and cover them with mulch, which helped them retain moisture.

After an hour we sat down to enjoy a lovely picnic lunch, which NCC staff picked up from a farm in the area. There were delicious sandwiches, fruit, cookies, and juice. After lunch we moved to another area, and everyone planted trees. We all helped each other and took pictures and laughed and danced. Just kidding—we didn’t dance. All that fresh air and nature made us feel like it though! We then embarked on a lovely hike deeper into Happy Valley. During our walk, we identified black cherry trees, white pines, and maples. A lot of them were 50 to 100 years old. We noticed some white fuzz on one of the trees, and after looking closer we realized it was actually thousands of little aphids!

We all had such a great day in Happy Valley. Thanks to NCC, we learned about conservation, reconnected with nature, got some great exercise, and bonded. Even better, no one got a tick bite!

Want to help too? Learn more about how you can help the Nature Conservancy of Canada preserve our beautiful natural areas.