2007 was a true example of revival and resiliency for American Forests and one of its most critical programs to date: Katrina ReLeaf, which enveloped a number of projects targeting reforestation in response to one of America’s most devastating natural disasters.
Indeed, this year marks the 10th anniversary of one of America’s five deadliest hurricanes and by far the costliest natural disaster in American history.
For many, it is tough to imagine that nearly 10 years have passed since Katrina descended upon the shores of the Gulf Coast, encompassing a range from Texas to central Florida. Most notably, Katrina caused a surge of destruction and deaths in the city of New Orleans, when rampant flooding developed as a result of levee system failure. In total, 80 percent of New Orleans was under water at some point, $108 billion in property damages piled up, and 1,833 people tragically lost their lives — the vast majority of them from the city formerly known for its upbeat mantra of “Laissez le bon temps rouler” (French for “Let the good times roll”).
In response to this unprecedented natural disaster, American Forests launched the Katrina ReLeaf program in 2007 to restore some of the 50,000+ trees lost in New Orleans alone. Through a series of projects peppered throughout 2007 and into 2010, American Forests worked with the citizens of New Orleans and across the Gulf Shores to rebuild and regreen the areas of most critical need and to reduce further coastal erosion that can result from rapid deforestation of landscapes in coastal areas. In 2007, these projects included reforesting the hard-hit Jefferson Parish region with 3,300 trees, replacing trees along Elysian Avenue, planting 173 trees in the highly-utilized recreational and cultural oasis of New Orleans City Park, and more.
Our work didn’t stop in 2007 or in New Orleans alone, of course. American Forests continued planting in 2008, as witnessed by our Habitat Trees for Dothan, Ala., project of reforesting and rebuilding with Habitat for Humanity. In fact, we have continued to replant after Katrina through 2011, when we partnered with Alcoa Foundation to replant in 62 schoolyards affected by the hurricane.
American Forests is no newbie to natural disaster response, and we have adamantly continued our work of reforesting after wildfires, ice storms, tornadoes and, of course, hurricanes. Visit our 2015 projects to read about some of our most recent disaster-response projects.