Maple Leaves Forever founder wins lifetime achievement award

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Mulmur resident Ken Jewett is the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Museum of Nature for his work with the Maple Leaves Forever Foundation.

The awards were presented during a virtual ceremony on Nov. 24, hosted by the Ottawa museum, on what happened to be Jewett’s 91st birthday.

“Philanthropist and nature advocate Ken Jewett, has dedicated his time and personal financial resources over 20 years for planting initiatives and environmental education about native maple trees. Through the Maple Leaves Forever Foundation that he created, about 130,000 native maple trees have been planted in Ontario, in partnership with nurseries and local municipalities – reinforcing the importance of native species to healthy ecosystems.”

Jewett said he hopes the award will bring additional recognition to the native Canadian Maple.

“Other than the fact that it is a great honour to get the award, it’s a recognition that will bring additional credibility,” Jewett told The Echo, adding it always helps to further the cause.

Jewett has given over $2.5 million to individuals and groups for planting initiatives and promoted environmental education on the importance of the native Canadian maple.

The museum writes, “Driving through rural Ontario today, one often sees magnificent rows of tall sugar maples along roadsides, farm laneways and property boundaries. These trees come from a historic government incentive program to prevent erosion along farmland, which led to quintessentially Canadian maple-lined roads in rural Ontario. In 2002, seeing that these ancient roadside maples were in decline and at risk of disappearing, Jewett founded Maple Leaves Forever (MLF). This charitable foundation supports and promotes the planting of native Canadian maples in rural Ontario – native trees being naturally adapted to local climate and site conditions, having evolved to be resistant to severe weather events and most local pest problems.

“Under Jewett’s leadership, MLF pioneered a Thank You Rebate program for rural landowners to assist them in planting maples. Canadian-grown maples are made available for planting through 22 nursery partners. To date, over 130,000 native maple trees have been planted in Ontario through this program – equivalent to over 2,000 km of maple-lined roadways and laneways. The City of Ottawa, the townships of Clarington and Port Hope, and the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority are also winners of this rebate in support of their efforts in native maple-tree planting.

“At the national level, Jewett discovered that the National Capital Commission (NCC) sourced maples from Oregon for planting around the National Capital Region. He led a seven-year campaign to encourage the sourcing of native species, which resulted in the 2015 decision by the NCC to switch to native maple trees.”

“The maple tree, the maple leaf, maple syrup, it’s part of our whole Canadian heritage,” said Jewett. “I saw native maple trees disappearing and being replaced by cultivars and invasive species. I’ve made a pledge to try and stop this, and to help farmers and landowners plant native maples along their roadsides and laneways.”

The eighth annual awards recognize individuals, businesses, and not-for-profits that show leadership, innovation and creative approaches to sustainability to connect Canadians with nature and the natural world.

The 2021 awards covered seven categories: Youth (aged 17 and younger), Adult, Not-for-Profit (small to medium), Not-for-Profit (large), Sustainable Business, Community Action and Lifetime Achievement.

“At a time when we are confronting impacts of the pandemic, as well as broader challenges to the protection of biodiversity, it’s inspiring to recognize these amazing individuals and groups,” said Meg Beckel, president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature. “Whether the impacts of their efforts are local, regional or national, all of their innovative projects provide hope in guiding us towards a sustainable future.”

Videos about each of the 2021 winners can be viewed at nature.ca/awards. A jury selected the winners after paring down the applications to a shortlist of finalists. Winners receive $5,000 that they can “pay forward” to a nature-related program of their choice.

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