The maple tree, it is estimated, has been a prominent figure and symbol of the country of Canada and the people that reside there for centuries. With a history that extends back to the 1700s, the maple tree (and its well-known leaf) is implanted itself on more than just the Canadian soil, but in the hearts of those who call it home. So dear to the hearts of Canadians is the maple leaf, that poet Alexander Muir sang its praises in a song he wrote after serving with the Canadian forces in 1866. He wrote: “The Maple Leaf/ Our Emblem Dear, / The Maple Leaf Forever. / God save our Queen and heaven bless, / The Maple Leaf Forever.”
Today, however, the maple tree is in danger of being completely wiped off of the Canadian landscape, especially in the Ontario province where lack of security and incoming threats pin the species in an unprotected corner. “Our maple trees are under threat, we have an invasive species coming up through New York State,” explained the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller. “We have climate change acting on our maple trees”—further questioning: “Is that the Ontario you want to live in?”
The incoming threat is the Asian longhorn beetles that are making their way up and over the Canadian/US border and specifically into the Ontario province. Like most invasive insect species, these beetles will blow through the populations of maple trees, leaving the trees damaged, dying, and unable to survive the swarm. Add that to the ever present danger of global warming—which, among other things, strangles the environment where the trees are best equipped to survive—and the maple trees have a huge battle ahead of them.
Miller is among the many concerned that believe that unless the Ontario government acts quickly to assess the risks and takes progressive steps in preventing their widely devastating impact, the maple trees may disappear within the coming decades. According to Miller, the Ontario government first knew about the longhorn beetle threat back in 2003, and had the opportunity to get a handle on it early on but let the issue slip from their hands.
With a biodiversity strategy that expired over a year ago, the fate of the Ontario ecosystem is up in the air and on the desks of officials. And as the issue becomes harder to ignore, the unavoidable toll on the economy becomes even harder to overlook. “Protecting our resources, protecting our fisheries, protecting our forests, this is vital to keeping jobs, to paying bills here in Ontario,” states Jonah Schein, a Member of Provincial Parliament, in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“I don’t think the whole world expects everyone to succeed, but they expect when you sign these agreements you try,” explains Miller, believing that this is not a lost cause, and it is the duty of the higher-ups to works towards a solution. “And after that there is a whole questions of international credibility that comes into play. It’s not as if something is going to happen in the future, these are things that are happening right now.” Ontario officials need to be pressured to act quickly on behalf of the environment and the job that relies on them. To help put the pressure on, please sign the petition here.
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