Ian Cochrane has a family history of forestry and conservation. As the RVCA's new forestry manager, he has fully embraced his calling – bugs and all – to plant more than 200,000 trees a year for a more resilient community, planet and future.
Where did your interest in forestry come from?
My grandfather was a forestry worker in Kapuskasing for about five years after he came back from World War II. He found happiness being out in the forest, and that's where my perspective on forestry came from. He built a family cottage near Parry Sound and I spent a lot of time there as a kid, which gave me a good appreciation for nature.
How did you end up at the RVCA?
I started my career in horticulture, but I wasn't happy. I got my forestry technician diploma from Fleming College and spent a summer in Northern Ontario supervising a massive tree plant operation. There were a lot of bugs, and that was the big test to know if I really wanted to be in forestry. And I loved it!
I got my Bachelor of Science in Forestry from the University of New Brunswick and spent my summers in Northern Alberta and British Columbia doing block layout for industrial forestry companies. I was mapping out what kinds of trees were there, what needed to be protected, what could be logged, and protecting areas of concern like bear dens and other sensitive habitat. But eventually I wanted to be closer to my family in Orleans, so I joined the RVCA in March 2020 as a forestry technician. And now I'm the forestry manager.
Besides the bugs, what's your favourite part of the job?
I love collaborating with private landowners to give them a reforestation plan that we can all be proud of. I take great pride in creating a planting plan that's going to be successful, and that will make the landowner proud of their land and the contribution it's making to the watershed. There's an education component, too: teaching landowners what can and can't be grown in the conditions on their property and explaining the many benefits their project has on the local environment and nearby water quality.
Why should landowners get involved in the tree planting program?
The benefits of planting trees are pretty much endless: carbon capture, flood and erosion control, better water quality, habitat creation, your overall general happiness – the list goes on and on. And with the growing impacts of climate change, now more than ever it's critical that people take inventory of their land and consider what they're never going to use again. Is that field too rocky? We can transform it into a forest. Fallow fields? Let's grow a forest. If you have small areas of your property that are just sitting there unused, it's more beneficial to the environment to plant trees.
What's the catch?
You need at least 1.25 acres of available land, and you have to commit to plant at least 1,000 trees. But other than that, there's really no catch! We create the plan, prep the site, plant the trees and maintain them for five years – for only $120 an acre. To do that on your own would cost up to $3,000 without subsidies. It's all thanks to the support of our many partners, including Forests Ontario, One Tree Planted, Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation and the City of Ottawa.