CN: EcoConnexions: Major Cross Canada Reforestation Program

CN’s EcoConnexions From the Ground Up program was launched in 2012 to promote environmental sustainability through the greening of communities, including Indigenous communities, along their rail network in Canada and the United States. Working together with their partners, Tree Canada and America in Bloom, CN has assisted community groups in establishing green spaces by providing tree planting grants of up to $25,000. Community based tree planting events focus on the importance and hope associated with planting trees and include a multitude of stakeholders and participants including municipal and provincial government officials, local environmental groups, children, local businesses, CN employees, and the media.

CN’s Mass Reforestation program promotes mass reforestation efforts conducted in a sustainable, environmentally responsible manner. Since the launch of the program in 2012, CN has planted over 1.8M trees across Canada and the US, making CN the largest tree planting company outside of the forest industry in Canada.

In 2017, searching for a unique and significant  way to celebrate Canada 150, CN doubled the size of the program for that year (from 25 grants/communities to 52 grants/communities) and also planted special Canada 150th trees and placed commemorative plaques in 150 Canadian communities this year.

The objectives of the program are to both improve biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions — two of the 3 pillars of the company’s environmental strategy — and build stronger community relationships.

In addition, following the devastating fires in Fort MacMurray in 2017, Tree Canada, in partnership with CN embarked on a tree planting effort aimed at making the community green again.

Tree Canada — Canada’s leading tree planting organization— works with corporate partners, like CN, to plant and reforest areas in need and this project, dubbed Operation ReLeaf Fort McMurray, included restoring natural forests according to Fire Smart standards, designed to reduce damage in the event of wildfire. The program was largely focused on replacing trees in residential areas, contributing to the community wellbeing with lasting benefits.

Operation ReLeaf also included restoring forests in adjacent First Nations communities. In 2018, a portion of the project will aim to restore the canopy cover of trees in Fort McMurray’s Beacon Hill neighbourhood.

While the “Project Operation ReLeaf” was not completed under the EcoConnexions banner, it certainly aligned with the objectives and values of those programs and was made possible due to the strong relationship/partnership with Tree Canada. Through its various EcoConnexions programs, CN is playing a significant role in promoting biodiversity and, as a result of their community-based approach, there are tremendous social benefits as well:  Planting trees gives people roots.