GR25: Reforesting Former Strip Mines in 1993

by Megan Higgs
Stark comparison between strip-mined land and untouched land in background.

Stark comparison between strip-mined land and untouched land in background. Credit: Boyd Norton via wikimedia commons.

As our journey continues in 1993, we venture into reforesting the aftermath of a practice that had been going on for much longer than 22 years — and a venture that is still equally important today, as evidenced by both past and present Global ReLeaf work.

This undertaking involves none other than the reclamation and reforestation of land affected by strip mining. Strip mining, which involves the removal of a long strip of overlying rock and soil, is most commonly used to mine coal in the United States, as it is less labor-intensive and generally reaps more coal than underground mining. Having first gained traction in the mid-sixteenth century, strip mining — which includes open-pit and mountaintop removal mining — is the most predominant form of mining coal in Appalachia and the Midwest.

However, the consequences of such mining practices can be devastating without proper environmental remediation. Strip mining can leave a permanent scar on landscapes, destroying forests and wildlife habitats at the site of the mines. Soil erosion and loss of soil fertility can result. In addition, increased risks of chemical contamination through the seepage of upturned minerals, polluted waterways, flooding and dust and noise pollution are all common risks.

This disturbance occurs on a fairly vast scale throughout the U.S. as well — between 1930 and 2000, coal mining altered approximately 5.9 million acres of natural landscape, much of it formerly forest. After mining, it can often be difficult for the land to support a landscape as complex and biodiverse as a forest, as the remaining soil is often extremely damaged and fragile.

With all that said, if there is one thing American Forests strives to do, it’s to restore and protect our nation’s forests. So, in 1993, we completed our first mining reclamation and reforestation project in Coshocton County, Ohio by planting 50,000 mixed hardwoods in an area that had been strip mined from 1963-1987. While some grasslands had developed in the six years prior to our planting, the land would have taken many years to begin to sprout any forested areas. As such, we jumpstarted this recovery with the help of local Boy Scouts, among others, to return this area to its former glory.

Our work has not stopped there, however. Just last year, in 2014, we undertook a similar endeavor in West Virginia, where we planted 55,000 trees in an area formerly used for mining to the benefit of dozens of wildlife, including the West Virginia northern flying squirrel, the ruffled grouse and the Cheat Mountain salamander. However, we, as humans, are never far behind with these benefits — this area serves as the headwaters for clean drinking water to millions in the Ohio River Valley and Washington, D.C. area, and these 55,000 trees are serving to prevent erosion and control sediment in our drinking water for years to come.


Forest Digest – Week of November 9, 2015

by American Forests
A forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, near Point-Noire Diosso.

A forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, near Point-Noire Diosso. Credit: jbdodane via Flickr.

Find out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest!

Plus, check out just a handful of the news stories covering the planting of our 50 millionth tree this week!


Clear, Cold & Perfect: American Forests Plants 50 Millionth Tree alongside Eddie Bauer, Ryan Reynolds

by American Forests

By Lea Sloan, Vice President of Communications

Eddie Bauer and Philanthropic Ambassador Ryan Reynolds Plant 50 Millionth Tree in Celebration of 20-Year Partnership with American Forests on November 11, 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, California.

Eddie Bauer and Philanthropic Ambassador Ryan Reynolds Plant 50 Millionth Tree in Celebration of 20-Year Partnership with American Forests on November 11, 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, California.

As Eddie Bauer president and CEO, Mike Egeck, said to the media on the morning of November 11, 2015, “This is the kind of weather Eddie Bauer clothes are made for.”

November 11th dawned to a clear blue sky and a crisp 27 degrees for the planting of American Forests’ 50 millionth tree in California’s San Bernardino Mountains. Not only was our president and CEO, Scott Steen, also present to speak to the media for the big occasion, so was Ryan Reynolds,  the new philanthropic celebrity ambassador for Eddie Bauer’s partnership with American Forests.

The gorgeously styled table and setting outside on the shores of Lake Arrowhead under magnificent 100-year-old Ponderosa pines set the perfect backdrop for the celebration of 20 years of planting together with Eddie Bauer, adding up to 6.5 million trees in 150 different projects across the country and around the world.

Following the media event, we all headed up the mountain for the planting of “Gordon,” as Ryan Reynolds dubbed the seedling, a baby Ponderosa pine, who is a girl, he wryly informed all. “It’s a good Canadian name.”

After the planting of “Gordon,” Mike and Scott joined the teams from American Forests and Eddie Bauer and the media to enthusiastically plant another 40 Ponderosa seedlings in our Mountain Communities Wildfire ReLeaf  project, local partners with whom American Forests has planted trees for a decade.

We now look forward to a very exciting year ahead with Eddie Bauer and Ryan Reynolds. And, American Forests and Mountain Communities project manager, Cheryl Nagy, were thrilled to get the good news that over and above Eddie Bauer’s plans for planting with us for 2016, they have committed to an additional 20,000 trees for this gorgeous, rugged mountain setting.

So, as we celebrate the milestone of planting 50 million trees, here’s to 50 million more with the help of our incredible partners like Eddie Bauer.

Learn more about our partnership with Eddie Bauer and how you can help: https://www.americanforests.org/ways-to-give/eddie-bauer/.

Decor at the ceremony for planting of the 50 millionth tree in celebration of 20-Year Partnership with American Forests on November 11, 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, California.

Decor at the ceremony for planting of the 50 millionth tree in celebration of 20-Year Partnership with American Forests on November 11, 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Eddie Bauer)

 

Our 50 millionth tree!

Our 50 millionth tree!

 

American Forests President & CEO, Scott Steen, Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, Greg Meyer, and Vice President of Communications, Lea Sloan (Left to Right).

American Forests President & CEO, Scott Steen, Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, Greg Meyer, and Vice President of Communications, Lea Sloan (Left to Right).


The Meaning of 50 Million Trees: Scott Steen Speech

by American Forests
American Forests President & CEO, Scott Steen

American Forests President & CEO, Scott Steen, speaking at our 50 millionth tree planting on November 11, 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, California.

Scott Steen, president and CEO of American Forests, gave the following speech on Wednesday, November 11th, at the planting of American Forests’ 50 millionth tree.

“There is a Chinese proverb that says ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’

Well, 25 years ago, American Forests started the Global ReLeaf program with a simple, compelling mission — to find threatened, ecologically important forests, and to fund tree planting initiatives that can make a real difference in restoring these landscapes to health.

Today, on this mountain, we will plant our 50 millionth tree as part of the Global ReLeaf program. To put that number into context, 50 million mature trees, laid end to end, could encircle the globe 30 times. Fifty million trees could forest a treeless plot of land nearly 40 times the size of Los Angeles’ Griffith Park.

And, while 50 million might be a hard number to get your head around, the reality is this:

Every one of these trees matters.

Every one of these trees is helping to clean our air and water.

Every one provides oxygen for us to breathe.

Every one provides food and shelter for wildlife.

And, when combined together in a forest, their impact is exponentially greater.

‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’

Eddie Bauer began planting trees with American Forests 20 years ago.

Since the beginning of our collaboration, we have planted more than 6.5 million trees in more than 150 forest restoration projects. And today, Eddie Bauer is renewing and expanding that commitment.

Our work together has made our water and air cleaner, and our cities greener. Together, we have helped cool the planet and slow the creep of climate change. And together, we’ve protected and restored habitat for dozens of threatened and endangered species, from grizzly bears to gopher tortoises.

Much of our partnership has focused on restoring forests that have been profoundly damaged by wildfire — much of it here in California.

This place is a great example.

Back in the early 2000s, this community watched as waves of pine beetles made their way across the mountain, turning beautiful pine forests red as the trees lost their needles and died.

And then, to add insult to injury, the great Fire Siege of 2003 struck.

Fifteen separate wildfires raged throughout Southern California that October. On this mountain alone, 90,000 acres of forest burned. Within a 25 mile radius, 60,000 people were evacuated.

When they returned, 450 homes had been destroyed and thousands of people were left homeless. Their beautiful mountain forest was reduced to fields of blackened shards. The diverse wildlife of this landscape vanished. And the tourist economy, based on the community’s natural beauty, vanished with it.

But then, the people of these mountains did a remarkable thing. They decided to not merely rebuild the homes, but to rebuild the forest itself.

New organizations were born, and new alliances formed. 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 joined hands with these families, friends and neighbors to bring this forest back to life.

Since then, American Forests has helped this community plant 400,000 trees here. Cheryl Nagy, one of the leaders in this effort, told me that American Forests’ involvement has been critical to making this work possible.

This is at the core of what American Forests does.

We find important projects that can make a significant difference in real places and to real living things. And then, working in concert with local teams who know the “ground truth” of a place, we create positive and lasting change.

We do this because, quite simply, forests are essential for supporting life on our planet.

So, if you care about wildlife, think forests.

If you are concerned about climate change, think forests.

If you appreciate how important biodiversity is for human life, think forests.

If you drink water, think forests.

If you breathe air, think forests.

Today, I am delighted to welcome Ryan Reynolds as a partner and ambassador for this work. Ryan’s deep love of nature and commitment to the environment make him a perfect messenger  for the important role that forests play in the overall health of the planet.

As we plant American Forests’ 50 millionth tree today, my hope is that this is merely a symbol of the millions more we will plant together and a recognition that, while the best time to plant a tree may be 20 years ago, the second best time is now.”


The Legend of Sleepy Trees

by American Forests

By Amelia Loeb, Communications Intern

Trail through a forest of birch trees on a winter evening.

Trail through a forest of birch trees on a winter evening. Photo Credit: glasseyes view via Flickr

Year after year, when daylight grows shorter and each day grows colder, the trees in the forest know of winter’s approach. Some let go of their leaves, some let themselves freeze, but they all slow their growth to prepare for winter’s snow. Listen closely to the marvelous tale of tree dormancy: “The Legend of Sleepy Trees.”

Woody plants need to go dormant in order to survive winter’s conditions, cold temperatures and lack of sunlight. Otherwise, the tree would die from a lack of water resources due to frost, or not produce enough energy to sustain itself. In order to survive through the winter trees must “fall asleep”. They are still alive, but do not allocate energy to growth and preform very few functions. The type of dormancy depends on the climate the tree grows in, but most follow a general path.

First, trees need to know that it is time to go dormant. Temperature and day length act as signals, just as a bedtime ritual such as brushing your teeth or turning on your noise machine (of forest sounds, of course!) tells your mind it is time to shut down. Cooler temperatures help the tree to enter into a state of dormancy. However, it is unreliable due to irregular seasonal temperatures (I’m talking to you, climate change, and a 75⁰F November day in Washington D.C.). Day length, or more specifically, the length of darkness regulates growth hormones in plants. Short summer nights stimulate growth in most plants. Longer periods of darkness, created by the earth’s axis tilting away from the sun during winter1, signal a cessation of growth. Three stages of dormancy follow: pre-dormancy, true-dormancy and post-dormancy.

Following the humanized metaphor, pre-dormancy is a light sleep cycle when trees can still respond to stimuli and resume growth. True-dormancy is a deep slumber when trees cannot wake up. They will have already formed terminal buds and dropped their leaves if they are deciduous.

During true-dormancy trees need to develop cold hardiness, meaning they can survive the coldest of possible winter temperatures. Some plants will keep the water in their cells in a liquid state, rather than frozen solid, by increasing the number of solutes like minerals and hormones which lowers the freezing point. This is called supercooling. Other plants will push water out of the cells and into the spaces in between, where it can safely freeze without damaging the cell, which is called intracellular dehydration. This allows plants to survive at colder temperatures than if they supercooled, but they may suffer from dehydration. These mechanisms prevent frost cracking, when water in the tree freezes and expands, cracking the tree in half. The tree may survive for a while after frost cracking, but will be less stable.

Post-dormancy is waking up on a Monday morning and not wanting to crawl out of bed; trees push water back into their shoots but growth is unlikely to occur. To transition from true-dormancy to post-dormancy, trees need to go through a chilling period, when temperatures are above freezing but still cool. If temperatures rise rapidly, and then fall back below freezing, trees will bud, only for the buds to die from the next frost. However, since the trees did not go through a chilling period, the tree most likely will not die.

As spring makes her return to the northern hemisphere, trees awaken from their slumbering state. Drowsy and dreamy, they rub their bleary eyes and stretch their limbs with one last yawn. A world no longer frozen, the blanket of snow melts. The air wisps away any trace of foggy trance which hung over the forests and trees flush green again.

1 Seasonal day length also depends on the hemisphere due to the tilt of the axis.

Sources

  • “Forest Biology and Ecology for Educators.” Forest Biology and Ecology for Educators. Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Dendrology Education, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
  • Perry, Thomas O. “Dormancy of Trees in Winter.” Science 171.3966 (1971): 29-36. Science. AAAS. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.
  • Drown, Robert W. “Sleep Cycle of Trees.” Aberdeen News. Aberdeen News, 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

Forest Digest – Week of November 2, 2015

by American Forests

Burned forestFind out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest!


Unique Tree Species around the World

by American Forests

By Amelia Loeb, Communications Intern

In this fun list, we’ve highlighted a tree species native to each continent to showcase the beautiful diversity of trees across our planet. Take a look at the science behind how certain trees’ functions have adapted to their environments.

North America

Devil’s Walkingstick
Aralia spinosa
Native to the eastern and southwestern United States
What makes it special? Devil’s Walkingsticks get their name from the thorns protruding from their thin trunk, giving the tree a menacing appearance.
What’s the science? The thorns are specialized stem tissue, evolved to give the plant protection from predators who have a penchant for its black, juicy, berry-shaped fruit. The thorns are either found in a spiral pattern up the truck or in rings, depending on growth rates.

Devil's Walking Stick

Photo Credit: Stick Christine and John Fournier via Flickr

South America

Monkey Puzzle tree
Araucaria araucana
Native to Chile
What makes it special? Well, for starters, it’s the national tree of Chile. Its name comes from an Englishman in the 1800s who said the branches of the tree would puzzle a monkey climbing up it.1 Second, Monkey Puzzle trees are conifers (a tree that has cones) which are uncommon south of the Northern Hemisphere. Third, they can live for a long time; the oldest known species was 700 years old and fossils have dated back 60 million years.
What’s the science?  Their irregular shape comes from age-related hormones stimulating different areas of growth. In addition, its thick bark protects the buds which helps the tree withstand wildfires, enabling it to grow for years.

Monkey Puzzel Tree

Photo Credit: Pato Novoa via Flickr

Africa

Baobab
Adansonia  digitata
Native to Madagascar and Africa
What makes it special? Well, it’s a massive tree with an uncommon shape. One tree in South Africa has a bar inside with room for 60 people. As to its shape, some have said that it looks like the devil tore the tree up and thrust it back into the ground upside down. This folk legend pulls into question the irregular spreading of branches, and as a side note, why irregularly shaped trees seem to be connected to the devil.
What’s the science? The tissues in the bark are specialized to store massive amounts of water during seasonal droughts. The shape of the branches allow the plant to receive maximum sunlight in its flat terrain.

Baobab Tree

Photo Credit: asfd01 via Flickr

Europe

Silver birch
Betula pendula
Native to Northern Europe
What makes it special? Its bark peels, called exfoliating bark, giving it a white patterned look. American Forests planted birch trees in Iceland with support of the Icelandic Forestry Association in 2011. This project helped reforest 20 acres and improved soil conditions, which is pretty cool!
What’s the science? Some trees exfoliate their bark in order to save water. In other species it allows a gas exchange necessary for photosynthesis, which then allows the tree to grow quicker. By shedding bark, any lichen growing on the bark, which hamper the light absorption of the photosynthetic bark cells, is sloughed off. The exact reason why silver birch trees have exfoliating bark is unknown.

Silver Birch

Photo Credit: TiggerT via Flickr

Asia

Rainbow Eucalyptus (mindanao gum)
Eucalyptus Deglupta
Native to the Philippines and Pacific Asia
What makes it special?  Its bark looks like a watercolor painting.
What’s the science? Its bark exfoliates in the summer, revealing streaks of pastel greens, reds, oranges, grey, greyish purples and blues. These colors are created by pigments and are less vibrant when not grown in tropical areas. Their colors are thought to help absorb a wider range of light so that the plant can photosynthesize more.

Photo Credit: Chad Podoski via Flickr

Australia

Moreton Bay fig
Ficus macrophylla
Native to tropical areas such as parts of Queensland and northern New South Wales
What makes it special?  Its buttressed and aerial roots.
What’s the science? Roots that extend from the base of the tree are called buttressed roots. They act as a support so that the plant can grow in the shallow soils of Australia. They’re called buttressed roots because they are reminiscent of the architectural supports.Aerial roots hang in the air to absorb oxygen. This often occurs in species that grow in soils that are dense and don’t have a lot of air space, as in the case for the Moreton Bay fig.  Air is essential for roots to absorb nutrients.The roots are also allelopathic, meaning they exude as substance that affects other species.  In this case, the roots of the Moreton Bay fig are toxic to many other species of plants so that other plants don’t naturally grow around it.

Moreton Bay Fig

Photo Credit: Prescott Pym via Flickr

Antarctica

Most trees cannot grow in Antarctica because of the limited water supply. Plants, such as trees, have a vascular system, similar to humans, which relies on water as a transport. When the temperature is well below freezing, the vascular system cannot conduct water because it has turned to ice. Some plants can withstand the near constant freezing temperatures and lack of water, such as mosses or grasses, but trees cannot. Trees can also survive periods of freezing temperatures by going into dormancy, but not for the majority of the year. Also, trees require an extensive root system to support their height. Since most water is found at the top of the soil, the roots can’t grow deep enough into the dense frozen soil to support a tree. Plants found in frozen tundras are small, like grasses, algea or shrubs, though scientists have found evidence of pollen frozen in ice which hints that the climate may have been warmer.

Antarctica Landscape Photo Credit: Horacio Lyon via flickr

Photo Credit: Horacio Lyon via flickr

1 Note: Monkeys are not native to Chile, so the metaphor is a factual stretch but fun nonetheless.


American Forests and Alcoa Foundation: Year Four of a Globally-Driven Collaboration

by American Forests

By Andrew Bell, Policy Intern

The volunteers at the California State University planting.

The volunteers at the California State University planting. Credit: California State University.

In The Partnership for Trees’ fourth year, American Forests and Alcoa Foundation teamed up to plant more than 220,000 trees and restore nearly 900 acres. Twenty-four projects across the world were financially secured and given a push towards achieving their goals. All the while, we drew ever nearer to the millionth tree planted since 2011. Of course, just as important as getting trees in the ground is the commitment to engaging communities and the next generation of forest stewards. Two of the projects that embodied that commitment took the partnership to a college campus in California and an industrial plant in Russia.

On the domestic front, California State University’s Channel Islands provided a unique opportunity. The Camarillo campus is home to thousands of hardworking students, yet possessed few trees and green places to work. A master plan to beautify the campus was drawn up, and The Partnership for Trees prepared to do some heavy-lifting.

The site was prepared, the holes were dug and the trees were in prime position. The scene was set for the tour de force that followed: 123 university students, staff and Alcoa employees planted 506 trees across 22 acres of the campus in just three hours. The student volunteers had already been trained to act as “team leaders,” while university and Alcoa staff provided quality control. The effort was so swift and efficient that Maria Calderas — Alcoa Fastening Systems’ Human Resources Manager — described the event as the most they had ever accomplished in a single volunteer project of that nature.

Together, the alliance brought beauty to the campus, provided habitat for monarch butterflies, mitigated the amplified city heat, cultivated a green backdrop for educational activity and bolstered the campus’ future tree coverage by up to 60%. And, even when it came time to admire the day and all of its accomplishments through the rearview mirror, Alcoa Foundation found a way to bring even more to the table (quite literally). As a surprise, they provided lunch for the entire group of volunteers at the end of the planting, an expense that CSU Channel Islands had planned on covering through their budget. This allowed the university to take the excess funds and plant 12 more trees. Thanks to Alcoa Foundation’s generosity, the day’s lasting impact amplified even further.

Kalitva planting.

Kalitva planting. Credit: Anton Chu.

On the other side of the world, the “Business to Forest” tree planting project devised by Russian Carbon Fund provided a contrasting example of what’s in play with even the most extensive planning. In the wake of a disastrous 2010 wildfire that burned nearly 250,000 acres in the Moscow region of Russia, the need became clear to restore boreal forest belts in hopes of curbing desertification and the depletion of pastures and fruitful soils. This is why the Russian Carbon Fund reached out to American Forests and Alcoa Foundation to plant 20,000 Scots pines over 12 acres of land near an Alcoa plant that was ravaged by wildfire. But, the Administration of Belaya Kalitva expressed interest in planting 350 grown trees directly in town, and Alcoa Russia found good reason to honor that request.

So, on October 11th, The Partnership for Trees eagerly joined 1,300 Belaya Kalitva citizens in celebrating their “Tree Planting Day” holiday, a day where 3,000 trees and bushes were planted alongside the 350 provided by American Forests and Alcoa Foundation. Two weeks later, the partnership undertook a tree planting event with 150 Alcoa employees and local orphans that resulted in the planting of more than 11,000 Scots pines. Encompassing both events were educational opportunities for parents, teachers and grade school students as well as students in masters programs. With topics ranging from planting practices to sustainable urban forestry and its products, there was valuable knowledge to be gained for all. Thanks to this multifaceted approach, Belaya Kalitva has seen a proliferation in non-timber forest products (NTFP) and a growth in local jobs providing care for these trees for generations to come. The entire experience united business, government and society in building a socially and ecologically stronger community.


Forest Digest – Week of October 26, 2015

by American Forests

Find out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest!

Sumatran orangutan

Sumatran orangutan. Credit: Schristia/Flickr.


Haiti Reborn: Restoring Natural Habitats in Gros-Morne, Artibonite, Haiti

by American Forests

By Sydney Mucha, Communications Intern

Citron fruit

Citron fruit can be used in a variety of perfumes, making them a viable cash crop. Photo credit: Yvan/Flickr.

Even before 2010, Haiti was considered a struggling country. The land was exploited for natural resources, farming took over and what little infrastructure there was had not been kept up to date. Then, the unimaginable happened in 2010; an earthquake struck on January 12th, killing anywhere from 100,000-200,000[1] people, damaging houses, buildings and the natural habitat.

Now, more than five years after the destruction, Haiti is still trying to rebuild their cities and restore their natural habitats. To help with this process, American Forests has partnered with the Quixote Center in Gros-Morne, Artibonite, Haiti. This grassroots organization focuses on empowering the Haitian people by training them in sustainable agricultural practices in order to gain economic freedoms and to enhance their understanding of the environments around them.

As part of this project and initiative, volunteers are to plant 50,000 trees across 3 acres in the Tet Mon forest to prevent further soil erosion and runoff, which can be a hindrance to farming. At the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center, local farmers are being taught how to cultivate trees and practice sustainable farming measures such as composting, sustainable harvesting of trees and the use of riparian buffers to prevent soil erosion. This will help the locals learn to care for their surroundings as well as provide a sustainable income.

The group also has a contract with Green Schools, where adult trainings focus on water tables, erosion, soil enhancement and restoration discussions. The school also teaches children how to care and cultivate tress, the benefits of having trees on farms and how to grow and harvest them sustainably in hopes that they will share this information with their parents and remember it once they are older.

With the help of American Forests and the green initiatives set by the Quixote Center, Haiti is on the path of continued forest restoration and sustainable management of its land by the Haitian people.

[1] Sarigianopoulos, Rena. (2015). Haiti still hurting five years after devastating earthquake. Minneapolis KARE News.