Two Billion Trees and Counting


Short-listed for the 2012 Speaker’s Book Award

Edmund Zavitz (1875–1968) rescued Ontario from the ravages of increasingly more powerful floods, erosion, and deadly fires. Wastelands were talking over many hectares of once-flourishing farmlands and towns. Sites like the Oak Ridges Moraine were well on their way to becoming a dust bowl and all because of extensive deforestation.

Zavitz held the positions of chief forester of Ontario, deputy minister of forests, and director of reforestation. His first pilot reforestation project was in 1905, and since then Zavitz has educated the public and politicians about the need to protect Ontario forests. By the mid-1940s, conservation authorities, provincial nurseries, forestry stations, and bylaws protecting trees were in place. Land was being restored.

Just a month before his death, the one billionth tree was planted by Premier John Robarts. Some two billion more would follow. As a result of Zavitz’s work, the Niagara Escarpment, once a wasteland, is now a UNESCO World Biosphere. Recognition of the ongoing need to plant trees to protect our future continues as the legacy of Edmund Zavitz.


The Speaker’s Award


Edmund Zavitz has rescued Ontario from the ravages of environmental disasters and more than two billion trees have been planted under his guidance, with more to come.

The Globe and Mail (October, 2011)

Lest we think modern generations are the first to care about sustainability of natural resources, St. Catharines conservationist John Bacher sets the record straight.

The Guelph Mercury (October, 2011)

It's hard to believe as one drives through the lush Ontario landscape that it was not always this way. That's why the photos in John Bacher's Two Billion Trees and Counting: The Legacy of Edmund Zavitz (Dundurn, 2011) come as such a shock to the reader.

Ancient Trees Forum (UK) (December, 2011)

Informative on several levels, the book serves as both the warning and the voice of hope.

County Roads Magazine (January, 2012)

…a fascinating presentation.

Flesherton Advance (August, 2012)

In Two Billion Trees and Counting – The Legacy of Edmund Zavitz, John Bacher has given us a meticulously researched and very readable account of a courageous civil servant whose vision and strength of purpose would allow him and his supporters to turn the tide, tripling the forest cover in southern Ontario and starting the conservation authorities and county forest systems we know today.

Bacher provides a detailed look at a man whose lifelong efforts helped change the landscape of modern Ontario. Two Billion Trees and Counting is a reverential story of someone who was a family man, sportsman, photographer, and, above all, a naturalist.

Canada’s History

…a well-researched accounting of Zavitz’s work in a chronology that is easy to follow. I strongly suggest that his story should be written into the grade school history books in this province.

Toronto Star

John Bacher, an environmentalist and historian living in St. Catharines, Ont., has rescued Edmund Zavitz from undeserved obscurity.

Globe and Mail

About the Authors

John Bacher

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014

John Bacher

John Bacher received his Ph.D. in History from McMaster University in 1985, and has taught at McMaster and the University of Toronto. A co-author of Get a Life: An Environmentalist's Guide to Better Living, Bacher is a passionate supporter of environmental preservation.

Kenneth A. Armson

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Kenneth A. Armson

Ken Armson is a professional forester who taught and conducted research in forestry at the University of Toronto for 26 years. He has a special interest in forest history and retired from the role of Ontario's Provincial Forester in 1989. He is the author of Ontario Forests: A Historical Perspective, published in 2001.