American Forests planted its 50 millionth tree, a ponderosa pine seedling, at the site of a Mountain Communities project.

Together with longtime partner Eddie Bauer, American Forests planted its 50 millionth tree, a ponderosa pine seedling, in November 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., the site of a Mountain Communities project.

In the early 2000s, residents in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California watched as waves of pine beetles made their way across the mountains.

The beetle infestations prevented water and nutrients from flowing up the trees and quickly turned the beautiful, fragrant pine forests red as they died. Then, to add insult to injury, the great Fire Siege of 2003 struck. Throughout the mountains, 90,000 acres of forest burned, and 60,000 people were evacuated within a 25-mile radius.

When they returned, 450 homes had been destroyed, and thousands of people were left homeless. The diverse wildlife of this landscape vanished. And, the tourist economy, based on the community’s natural beauty, vanished with it.

But, the people of these mountains decided to not only rebuild the homes, but to rebuild the forest itself. Neighbors, businesses, Boy Scouts, college students and even the tourists themselves were enlisted to collect seeds, prepare soil and grow and plant trees. Distant communities got in on the action. And, from the very beginning, American Forests was with them.

Every year since 2005, American Forests has helped this community restore their mountain forests. By 2015, American Forests had supported the planting of more than 530,000 trees. Cheryl Nagy, one of the local leaders in this effort, said “None of this work would have been possible without American Forests.”

American Forests is working to restore communities and ecosystems like this one that have been ravaged by wildfire.