While the world watched the space shuttle Discovery place the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit 25 years ago, American Forests was also launching a stellar program: Global ReLeaf.
Though we had dipped our toe in the water of forest reforestation before 1990, this was the first year we committed to supporting multiple large-scale, on-the-ground projects. Since its inaugural year, American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program has blossomed into what is now our keystone program, planting in all 50 states and 44 counties.
To commemorate Global ReLeaf’s 25th anniversary, we will post bi-weekly on Loose Leaf over the course of 2015 to highlight at least one project from each year of the program’s history. These posts will let us — and, more importantly, you — (re)discover how American Forests has worked with local partners to reforest areas, from near your backyard to the other side of the world. From our first project restoring jack pine forests for endangered Kirtland’s warblers to our restoration activities in areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina, American Forests has planted nearly 50 million trees.
Though the projects differ each year, there are common themes among American Forests’ comprehensive work to protect and restore the most damaged ecosystems. Whether damaged by fire, development, or other causes, none of these lands are expected to naturally regenerate at the pace needed, if ever. American Forests always ensures native species are used and all elements are considered. Though our lives are dependent on forests — more than half of drinking water in the U.S. originates in forests! — their importance is much broader, providing habitat for wildlife and reducing the rate of climate change.
In addition to our 25 years of Global ReLeaf, we will be announcing our 2015 projects, so keep a look out. Sneak peak: American Forests will be planting in a country — our 45th! — we’ve never planted in before: Madagascar.
Stay tuned as we continue our journey revisiting what American Forests has accomplished through the history of our Global ReLeaf program.