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The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry told Forests Ontario the day after the Progressive Conservative government delivered its budget this month that the 50 Million Tree Program was being eliminated.Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Ontario is cancelling a tree planting program, with those involved warning the move will lead to the loss of jobs and environmental benefits that forests provide.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry told Forests Ontario the day after the Progressive Conservative government delivered its budget this month that the 50 Million Tree Program was being eliminated.

Rob Keen, chief executive of Forests Ontario, said since 2008 more than 27 million trees have been planted across Ontario through the program, which saved landowners up to 90 per cent of the costs of large-scale tree planting.

It was started as a carbon sequestration program, Mr. Keen said, but planting that many trees also helps clean the air and water, protect shorelines and reduce erosion.

About 40 per cent forest cover is needed to ensure forest sustainability, Mr. Keen said, and the average right now in Southern Ontario is 26 per cent, with some areas as low as five per cent.

The program’s annual budget was about $4.7-million, Mr. Keen said, and Forests Ontario was told it was being cancelled as a way to cut provincial costs.