The Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards (SCCWS) is participating in a program to distribute thousands of native trees to Saskatchewan residents.
The Saskatchewan Tree for Life program is an initiative by the Saskatchewan Association of Watersheds (SAW) in partnership with Environment and Climate Change Canada to distribute 24,000 native trees in the province.
Eight watershed stewardship groups are currently SAW members, and these organizations are responsible for giving away the trees in their water catchments.
SCCWS Executive Director Kevin Steinley said there are 3,000 trees available to residents of the Swift Current Creek watershed.
“It's part of our mission to enhance stream health and promote awareness about what impacts watershed health,” he explained. “Trees help to beautify the watershed, help with biodiversity, provide habitat, and also help to sequester carbon in the atmosphere, which mitigate some of the impacts of climate change that may impact the watershed.”
The intention of the Tree for Life program is to use the carbon storage capacity of trees to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change.
Young trees will absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 13 pounds per tree per year, according to information provided by SAW. This absorption rate of trees will be most effective when they are around 10 years old, when it is estimated they are absorbing 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
“We're looking at anybody who wants to plant trees,” Steinley said. “There's a limit of 50 per household.”
He added that trees will be distributed in bundles of five, and practically orders will therefore have to be for between five and 50 trees. Different tree varieties will be provided, including Sandbar willow, Prairie Sky and Hill poplars, and white and blue spruce.
The main requirement for anyone interested in receiving free trees is to fill out a short survey about climate change.
“It’s just to learn people's attitudes and understanding of climate change in Saskatchewan, and to provide a way or a roadmap for education on climate change,” he said.
It will only take a few minutes to complete the survey and it can be done online. Tree recipients will be provided with the online link or a QR code for the survey when they pick up their trees. Paper copies of the survey will also be available to fill out.
“The survey is an important part of the project,” he said. “And if you don't want trees, you will still be able to do the survey. We'll have the link for that later on as well.”
Any individual, farm, business or organization in the Swift Current Creek watershed interested in receiving trees can already contact Steinley to put in their order. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 306-770-4607.
“The trees will be coming on May 31 and we will be contacting everybody who has spoken for trees ahead of time, because we're asking people to put in their orders ahead of time,” he said.
The tree pickup site will be at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Swift Current Research and Development Centre, which is located just east of the city on Airport Road. COVID-19 public health guidelines will be followed to ensure the tree pickup takes place in a safe manner.
There will be some follow-up after the distribution of trees to determine the success of the program.
“There's also a contest where people can post pictures of their trees once they're planted and put them on Facebook,” he said. “That's going to be a part of this project as well, just to show people you've planted the trees and doing your part for the watershed.”