Existing trees are worth preserving

Dear Prime Minister:

I would like to propose to the Government of Canada an alternative approach to your recent pledge to plant two billion trees by 2030 for the purpose of capturing atmospheric carbon. Please know that I believe that your heart and your intent are in the right place whenever you endeavor to reduce the carbon footprint of Canada. I would like to bring to your attention, however, that there exists an alternative carbon-capture-via-tree plan that you will find to be:

  • Significantly less costly to the Government of Canada.
  • Significantly more beneficial for Canada’s economy.
  • The only method offering an immediate return on investment.
  • The only method offering a fore-known guaranteed return on investment.

In short, the carbon-capture plan that I am proposing is one where the Government of Canada would recognize and reimburse the cost that current landowners in the livestock industry incur when Canadian landowners choose to keep pre-existing, mature trees intact, in lieu of terrain that is economically more valuable.

The Government of Canada would see greater benefit from adding two billion mature trees to its asset holdings than from adding two billion seedlings. Landowners of native/virgin ecosystems in the livestock industry are unique among all Canadian industries because it is the only industry where the producers-of-value are inherently responsible for, and involved in, the maintenance of a strong/healthy ecosystem.

A livestock operation with a business model that makes use of native ecosystems cannot possibly succeed in the long-term without a deeply ingrained mentality of guaranteeing long-term health, and thus, long-term productivity from the land.

With this in mind, it would be very beneficial for Canada as a whole if the Government of Canada were to consider capturing carbon, not by planting trees in not-for-profit national parks, but instead by crediting a part of the Canadian economy whose business model already includes/exercises preservation of native ecosystems with mature trees but does not currently benefit from sustainable profit margins.

It is not profitable for livestock operators to keep more trees on their property than are needed for shelter because the most valuable native ecosystem in the livestock economy is grasslands, and logging, of course, yields value to a landowner.

It is important to note that this proposal exceeds the value currently offered by your plan to plant two billion trees by 2030 because this alternative proposal would immediately put a bank of two billion mature trees into the asset holdings of the Government of Canada without any multidecade delay of waiting for the investment (seedlings) to reach its full potential capacity for capturing atmospheric carbon.

This alternative proposal also avoids spending tax dollars on the significant fraction of those two billion seedlings that will inevitably fail to reach a mature age and size due to natural causes, such as failure to take root, wildfires, drought, soil quality, insect damage, consumption by animals, land slides and competition for sunlight.

As the originator of this plan, I would like to be the first to pledge the long-term care of the billions of mature trees that are already found on my property, in return for a credit of 50 cents per mature tree from the Government of Canada. This is significantly lower in cost than the $5.94 billion per two billion seedling trees (or $2.97 per seedling tree) currently proposed by the Government of Canada.

Thank you for your time in considering this proposal. Let us work together to guarantee that Canada will have a significant amount of atmospheric carbon capture capacity today, rather than gambling on a two-decades-from-now possibility of carbon capture.

Malcolm Main is a multi-generation rancher, landowner of native ecosystems and former certified organic producer from Pincher Creek, Alta.

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