Plant trees this Earth Day!

by American Forests

Understanding a forest’s impact through restoration

by Loose Leaf Contributor

By Pamela Jonah

The only concrete connection I have to Earth Day is when we took our then small children to the Boston Esplanade for a day of warm sunshine and entertainment. Right now I’m looking at snow. In April.

The frigid climate, record snowfall and drawn-out winter continues to wreak havoc on Boston’s state of mind, and the environment. We barely hear birds chirping and the only semblance of greenery is the struggling pine that my family affectionately refers to as the “Charlie Brown” tree, which my husband insisted we keep in light of its scrawny frame.

Because I’ve never been an outspoken environmental advocate, I was surprised when my husband suggested to my daughter and me to head to the mountains of San Bernadino, Calif., to support Jambu, his footwear company, and its partnership with American Forests. He told us Jambu had now developed eco-friendly and vegan shoe styles with biodegradable outsoles, and was partnering with AF on a campaign to plant 50,000 trees.

So we set off to a wildfire disaster zone for a reseeding effort with the Jambu volunteer team. Selfishly, I thought we’d do more scenic mountain climbing than hard labor. Little did we know that we’d soon entrench ourselves in the gray, hot ash of a now desolate tract of land, with the irony of a vibrant green backdrop of unharmed forest in the distance. The before and after right in front of our eyes.

Pamela Jonah's planting team in the San Bernadino Mountains.

Pamela Jonah’s planting team in the San Bernadino Mountains.

It didn’t take too long for us to bond with our new planting brigade: forestry officials and volunteers from across the globe brought together in the pursuit of forest restoration. We listened closely to the instructions on how to gingerly handle and plant our seedlings, the goal of the event, and the overarching meaning of preservation and sustainability.

Then, we were handed our precious seedlings. I turned to my daughter and vividly recalled the moment she was handed to me as a swaddled newborn. The eco-talk started to make tangible sense to me. This was a race against time, and an urgent mission to plant these tender “trees of life” as quickly as possible in the right way, in the right places. Together we ran to the neediest plains that called us and planted 60 seedlings between us. Our hands dug into the ash, deeper until they found the dirt. We carved safe burrows for these tiny sweet infants that would someday mature into a greater force than us. They would grow to sustain and feed, protect and heal.

Since then, as a family, we’ve moved away from plastic water bottles and bags. We’re wearing Jambu’s vegan shoes and the styles that have recyclable outsoles. We look to our Charlie Brown tree as a daily reminder of our eco-epiphany of giving back to the environment that sustains us as human beings. We all can contribute in our own way, however small the effort or, as we learned, the seedling.

Thank you, American Forests and Jambu. On Earth Day 2015, you’ve inspired us, and we pledge to continue the conversation with others who will listen.

Pamela Jonah is a Communications Consultant based in Boston. Her firm, Jonah PR, represents clients across a diverse group of industries in the private, public and non-profit sectors.

Kicking off the National Parks Centennial

by American Forests

By Erin Sandlin, Policy Intern

Growing up in Oregon and California, I was subject to the forces of nature (whether I liked it or not). As a child, I rode my bike through blackberry bushes that scraped my skin, I surfed waves that tumbled me like a load of laundry, I saw forest fires that engulfed trees without hesitation, and I witnessed amounts of rain that would put those fires out in no time. My mother took time to show me Mother Nature’s secrets by pointing out daffodils that bloomed on my birthday every year, and my dad told me which plants were okay to eat during a long hike. These experiences taught me from a very early age that the outdoors, grueling at times and gentle at others, were a place of unparalleled beauty and mystery.

At American forests, we are aware that not every child is surrounded by towering trees or close enough to the ocean to smell the sweet sea breeze. Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and access to safe outdoor places is in short supply. Electronic media is more present in the lives of young people than ever before, racking up, according to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study, an average of 53 hours a week! Yet, there are thousands of parks, including National Parks, around the U.S. waiting to be explored.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Credit: Matthew Paulson

Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Credit: Matthew Paulson.

Fortunately, as the National Park Service reaches its 100th anniversary in 2016, there are a number of initiatives that are honoring the parks and their service to the American people by increasing opportunities for kids and families to enjoy our National Parks. In recognition of National Park Week, American Forests is honored to support nation-wide initiatives such as the recently launched Find Your Park campaign and the President’s Every Kid in a Park Initiative.

Find Your Park — #FindYourPark for you social media mavens — hopes to encourage Americans to find their “park” and celebrate the work that is done to help protect our country’s special places and resources. The campaign brings attention to the thousands of parks in our communities and the hundreds of National Parks that allow for the exploration of our environment, history, and culture. As the National Park Service Centennial Ambassador Bill Nye says, “If you can find a National Park in New York City, you can find one anywhere!”

Additionally, President Obama has advocated to increase opportunities to visit parks and has launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative. The initiative is an inter-agency effort that will enable every fourth grade student across the country to experience their public lands and waters in person during the 2015-2016 school year at no cost!

American Forests continues to inspire people to value and protect urban and wildland forests through programs such as Community ReLeaf which works in cities across the country to improve their tree canopies and educate residents about the benefit of trees. We are pleased to see that the nation is taking notable steps to engage and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates that will help the National Park’s celebrate another 100 years!

A look at our partnership with the Alcoa Foundation

by American Forests

By Sydney Mucha, Communications Intern

As part as Alcoa Foundation’s Partnership for Trees Program, Alcoa is committed to plant 10 million trees by 2020, a portion of which they’ll plant with American Forests. More than 900,000 trees have been planted so far and the equivalent of 250,000 metric tons of CO2 have been absorbed by these plantings annually.

In 2015, more than 200,000 trees will be planted across 26 projects funded through this partnership, bringing the five-year tree-planting total to 1.14 million trees! From Brazil to China and even across the United States, some of this year’s projects will help:

  • Improve stormwater management and improved watershed quality in Maryland.
  • Reforest an abandoned coal mining site near Pittsburgh.
  • Increase tree cover in Halton Hills, Canada

Find more about American Forests’ partnership with Alcoa on our web page and check out how much of a difference we have made through our new infographic, which details the first five years of the partnership with Alcoa Foundation!

Alcoa-AF Partnership Infographic

Planting made easy this Earth Day

by American Forests

Throughout the year, American Forests is happy to feature some of our amazing partners who contribute to our reforestation efforts through great campaigns of their own.

  • Eddie Bauer — To celebrate a 20-year partnership, from today until Earth Day — April 22 — Eddie Bauer is making its “Add a Dollar, Plant a Tree” option available to both online and in-store customers. In addition, on April 21 and 22, Eddie Bauer will plant a tree for every transaction, whether online, in store, or by phone.
  • Chegg — As part of their Earth Day campaign, Chegg is hosting a photo contest on Instagram that features the love of the outdoors. For every photo tagging @Chegg, #EarthDay and #CheggForGood, they will plant a tree and the winning student photo will receive a GoPro HERO3 and a $500 Chegg Textbook Scholarship.
  • Jambu — This environmentally focused shoe company has been selling eco-friendly and vegan shoes for years. And for Earth Month they are stepping up their game one pair at a time: For every pair of shoes sold online, a tree will be planted. So check out some new kicks today!
  • Origins — This eco-friendly brand of natural skincare products has helped us plant more than 500,000 trees through their Pant-A-Tree initiative! Origins products are produced using a combination of renewables and sustainable practices, and during Earth Week they will plant a tree and give away a free tote with each purchase while supplies lasts
  • Woodchuck Cider — For the sixth year in a row, Woodchuck Cider is helping make the planet a little greener this Earth Week. By liking them on Facebook, a donation will be made in support of American Forests’ Community ReLeaf program. As an added bonus, if someone signs up via the custom link you shared, another tree will be planted!
  • Nate Wade Subaru — For those of you in the western U.S., this Earth Month, Nate Wade Subaru — Utah’s #1 Subaru Dealer is located in Salt Lake City and has been family owned since the 1970’s — is committed to plant 10 trees for every new or used car sold! So why not pick out a new car today and help offset your carbon footprint.
  • SFE Energy — Why not make your home green this Earth Day? You can offset your home’s carbon emissions by joining the Earth Save Program. When you select the Eco Gas or Green Electricity option, SFE and American Forests will plant two trees on your behalf, which can absorb up to 48 pounds of CO2 per year each!
  • Metropia — This transportation management platform is helping connect commuters, businesses, employers and government agencies to improve their metro mobility. And for this Earth Week, every Metropia user in Tucson and Austin that completes five or more trips from Saturday to Saturday, a tree will be planted just for you!

Forest Digest — Week of April 13, 2015

by American Forests

Now that spring has sprung, go outside and enjoy the nice weather! But be sure to read the latest Forest Digest first!

  • Alaska yellow cedar closer to Endangered Species Act protectionLos Angeles Times
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that the Alaska yellow cedar may soon be listed in the Endangered Species Act as climate change worsens and threatens the tree’s native range. Already more than 600,000 acres of cedar forests have died, and more will if CO2 emissions are not curbed.
If listed, the yellow cedar will become the first tree species in Alaska to be protected under the ESA. Photo credit: U.S Forest Service

If listed, the yellow cedar will become the first tree species in Alaska to be protected under the ESA. Photo credit: U.S Forest Service

  • 144ft beech in Sussex named Britain’s tallest native treethe guardian
    A 200-year-old beech tree in the National Trust’s Devil’s Dyke Estate in West Sussex claimed the title of tallest native tree from more than 200,000 other contenders. And while it is not the tallest tree in Britain — that title belongs to a non-native Douglas-fir that stands at 200 feet — it can proudly stand over all other native trees in Britain.
  • Jury: $160,000 for trees killed by herbicideArgus Leader
    Herbicides are used to kill weeds, but that is not the only thing they kill. Trees, ponderosa pines in this case, can also be damaged by the chemicals, and after a small co-op company killed more than 200 pines on Richard Krier’s property, he took them to court and won a settlement.

Water Week helps illustrate how trees clean water

by American Forests

Deanne Buckman, Policy Intern

This week is Water Week here in U.S. Water and wastewater professionals from communities across the country will come together to consider and advocate for national policies that advance clean and safe waters for a healthier environment. They will share perspectives, collaborate on solutions, meet with members of Congress and other federal regulators and celebrate past and present achievements. Water Week 2015 will inform and inspire local, state, and national leaders and highlight the importance of the water sector as a means of environmental protection, economic development and job creation.

So why is American Forests a collaborating organization with Water Week? Well, it’s easy to turn on the faucet or guzzle a glass of water without really thinking about where our water comes from, but in fact, clean water comes from forests! America’s forests are actually responsible for providing more than half of the fresh water in this country. Trees catch rainfall, which is filtered by tree roots, other vegetation and the soil before the water reaches the ground. This groundwater then seeps down into aquifers that are tapped by cities for daily use.

As the population continues to grow, more of our nation’s land is taken up by impervious cover, such as pavement, which limits the space available for trees and thereby reduces the groundwater supply in aquifers. These surfaces also increase the amount of stormwater runoff, or rainfall that lands on the impervious surfaces instead of treetops. This water misses out on being filtered by the trees and cannot be absorbed into the ground, and instead flows into streams and lakes carrying with it pollutants such as grease, trash, pesticides and more!

As part of our Urban Forests Case Studies that researched innovative strategies cities have developed to deal with today’s challenges, American Forests looked at Philadelphia, a city with one of the oldest operating sewer systems in the country. Part of the city utilizes a combined sewer system, which carries both sewage and stormwater in one pipe. When rainfall is heavy and stormwater runoff increases, the system reaches capacity and causes a mixture of sewage and stormwater to spill directly into streams and rivers without being filtered. Fortunately, the city has recognized that this system is no longer sustainable and that there is a way in which stormwater can be better managed. The city government has made a commitment to invest in green stormwater infrastructure and reduce reliance on the existing sewer infrastructure.

Together with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, the Environmental Protection Agency and other groups, the Philadelphia Water Department has developed a plan to turn this commitment into a reality. “Green City, Clean Waters” is a 25-year infrastructure management program aimed at protecting watersheds by managing stormwater runoff. The plan relies on implementing green stormwater infrastructure, a system that takes advantage of the water-plant relationship that naturally occurs in forests. Through the green infrastructure, which will include sidewalk planters, green roofs and a large-scale street tree program, more water will be absorbed into the ground instead of becoming runoff.

Philadelphia’s mayor has promised to make the city the greenest in the nation, and the citizens and government agencies have realized that reducing stormwater runoff through the use of urban trees is an important step to reaching this goal.

GR 25: “Digging it” in 2008

by Megan Higgs

While 2008 was marked as a year of uncertainty in our nation’s capital thanks in large part to the Great Recession, one thing was certain — the environment can’t always wait, and there was plenty of restoration work to be done!

In 2008, American Forests partnered with Timberland to plant 331 urban trees at the Boston Nature Center in Massachusetts. Located in the city’s Mattapan neighborhood on the former Boston State Hospital site, the Nature Center is a much-needed reprieve from city life. As such, this project worked to restore former over-development in one of the city’s treasured green spaces. The Center is crucial in fostering environmental education and appreciation by offering affordable, sliding-scale admission into this local sanctuary so that all of the city’s residents, regardless of income, may enjoy time in nature. In addition, the Center offers two miles of trails, and is home to more than 40 species of butterflies and 150 species of birds — proving that even if you live in a city, you don’t have to go far to view some wild critters!

As we all know, there are numerous other benefits to urban tree-planting projects such as reducing stormwater runoff, purifying the air and water, reducing noise pollution and the urban heat island effect, storing carbon dioxide, and minimizing energy use as they cool nearby homes. All of these benefits can equate to millions of dollars for cities each year — and was there ever a year in recent U.S. history in need of money being saved more than in 2008?

The project itself also fostered environmental stewardship on multiple levels, as American Forests and Timberland engaged more than 200 volunteers for this vital effort. Among the attendees was one very special guest — former Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the longest-serving mayor of the city.

But our urban volunteer work didn’t stop there in 2008. Want to learn more? Read about our second part to the Dig It project in Los Angeles.

The acorn experiment

by American Forests

By Lea Sloan, Vice President of Communications

When was the last time you really looked at an acorn? For me, before last fall, it had been a very long time. And when I did, I noticed that acorns really are tiny time capsules for what could become the biggest trees in a yard or park — and outlive me by several hundred years.

Every day on the way to work I walk by dozens of oak trees in D.C., from a myriad of varieties that I try to identify accurately. My job at American Forests is to inspire people to protect and restore forests, and to appreciate why forests are essential to our planet. So, somehow lightning struck and it occurred to me, why not try to grow some acorns into trees?

How? I Googled it.

I started collecting them from the ground under particularly big, healthy trees, looking for a variety of species. I found red oak, willow oak, bur oak — and what was either a scarlet or northern pin oak, judging from its leaves. I stuffed the acorns into my pockets.

I took notes on trees from which I collected the acorns, although now I wish they were more detailed (note to self: be a better scientist). Reading up on guidance from multiple sources, and getting advice and encouragement from friends and strangers including at the Eastern Native Tree Society, I launched into phase two. I floated my candidates in a bowl of water. The sinkers are the keepers. The floaters are no-go’s.

I divided the sinker acorns into separate baggies with labels, and added a little dampened sphagnum moss and vermiculite, and put them down for a long winter’s nap in the vegetable drawer in my refrigerator at home.

Phase three

Thinking early February was the time shift gears into spring, it seemed to be the right time to plant them. Two of the red oak acorns had already sprouted little white roots. I put half of them in little four inch square pots in a potting soil mix. The others I planted in my raised-bed garden at home with a chicken wire screen over the top to thwart squirrel thievery.

My timing was off. In two weeks, the red oaks that had sprouted roots had broken out the top of the acorns too and were three inches tall. Within days, a third had sprouted and the first two were six inches tall. Oak trees have tap roots that grow monstrously fast.

VP of Communications Lea Sloan grew oak seedlings from acorns she found near her D.C. home.

VP of Communications Lea Sloan grew oak seedlings from acorns she found near her D.C. home.

I needed bigger pots

I should note that the whole potting operation was taking place in my office. My big window gets tons of indirect light in February. In March, the setting sun comes up over the rooftops and is more direct — and the trees were ready for it. Two of the willow oaks had sprouted, and two of the scarlet or northern pins, as well.

The first five had to go into even bigger pots or go outside, but the winter refused to end this year in Washington — and the whole northeast, you may have noticed. And it was still too cold to acclimate them outside. They had to chill in their pots for a couple of weeks, in which they didn’t grow very much, which may have done incalculable damage to the tap root. This pained me, but so did the prospect of a big bill for bigger pots and costlier shipping. So I made them wait, and felt very badly about it. These trees are my babies.

So this last weekend, I finally brought them home. It was still too cold to leave them out all week, but over this weekend they got daytimes out, night times in. And last night, when it wasn’t going to go below 50 degrees, the first five had their first night out in the big world (on my screened porch) since their life on their real mothers, or at her feet as fallen acorns.

Next weekend I will plant them in the garden until they get up to adoptable age, in the fall I think, when I plan to take applications from neighbors and friends who seriously promise to water them a couple times a week through the warm and hot months of their first two years. That will get them off to a good, strong start in life. And shade our neighborhood for decades — or centuries to come.

Forest Digest — Week of April 6, 2015

by American Forests

Don’t let the rain get you down. Use the latest Forest Digest to perk right back up!

  • How do you plant 1 billion trees a year? With drones, of coursetreehugger
    BioCarbon Engineering, a UK company, has come up with a tech-savvy way of combating deforestation. The company uses drones to first map potential restoration sites, and then to plant pregerminated seeds enclosed in a nutrient-rich gel in the designated areas for high establishment rates.
  • Head of London-listed company linked to illegal clearing of Peru rainforestthe guardian
    United Cacao, a company committed to providing ‘ethically-produced’ chocolate, is now under fire after the Environmental Investigation Agency released a report claiming they had illegally deforested more than 17,300 acres of the Peruvian rainforest. The company denies the claims, but satellite images provided by the Carnegie Institute for Science say otherwise.
: Red Oaks have invaded the Mark Twain National Forest and while the Forest Service wants to restore the forest back to the natural landscape, others wish to have the current forest preserved. Photo credit: Bhanu Tadinada/ Flickr

Red Oaks have invaded the Mark Twain National Forest and while the Forest Service wants to restore the forest back to the natural landscape, others wish to have the current forest preserved. Photo credit: Bhanu Tadinada/ Flickr

  • Residents Fight Mark Twain National Forest Restoration PlanNPR
    Butler Hollow in the Mark Twain National Forest has been altered in the past century by human activities, which has allowed many invasive species to take over. As a result, the Forest Service plans to use fire, herbicides and logging to restore one-third of the 1.5 million-acre forest, yet some nearby residents believe the plan is an excuse to log the forest for profit.
  • Losing the forest in Papua New GuineaThe Washington Post
    Like most developing nations, Papua New Guinea is relying on natural resource exploitation to enter the world market. As a result, thousands of Merbau trees have been logged — both legally and illegally — causing harm to the island’s biodiversity.
  • Forest Fires Threaten New Fallout From ChernobylThe New York Times
    The Chernobyl accident covered more than 77,000 square miles of Europe and Eurasia with radiation that leached into the soils and wildlife. Now as climate change causes an increasing risk of fire, this radiation is posed to be released yet again causing disastrous affects.