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American Forests & Alcoa Foundation: Year One of a Globally-Driven Collaboration

September 22nd, 2015|Tags: , , , |

By Andrew Bell, Policy Intern

Volunteers at the 2011 “Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum” project.

Volunteers at the 2011 “Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum” project.

This year marks the fifth year of a globally-successful partnership between American Forests and Alcoa Foundation, collectively known as the two organizations’ “Partnership for Trees.” Through this partnership, part of Alcoa’s “Ten Million Trees” by 2020 initiative, American Forests and Alcoa Foundation together have restored forests, cultivated green spaces and inspired volunteers all over the world. Together, we see a bright future for reforestation in communities, as well as wildlands, both in the United States and worldwide. In celebration of this collaboration, we’d like to share a slice of the accomplishments from each of these five years.

Beginning from the top, 2011 was far from a sluggish start to the partnership in terms of both domestic and international projects. The 22 projects culminated in more than 248,000 trees planted on roughly 970 acres of land. In particular, two projects capture the essence of the collaboration’s booming genesis: one in Atlanta, and one on the other side of the world, in Changwon, South Korea.

In the case of the former, American Forests and Alcoa Foundation helped Trees Atlanta kick off the remarkably ambitious “Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum” project. In what will eventually be a 22-mile living and breathing greenway, our partnership provided much-needed resources to assist in the planting of a Sassafras grove along the corridor’s Eastside Trail. The grove serves not only as a monument to a beautifully unique and native species, but also as a source of much needed erosion relief and habitat restoration for struggling wildlife.

Three volunteer projects, involving site preparation, tree planting and mulching, brought together 153 volunteers who put in a grand total of 613 service hours. Thanks to the help of Georgia Tech students, a Boy Scouts troop and many more, 200 sassafras trees of four varieties were planted — a number that actually exceeded the original project estimate. The Eastside Trail grove now represents one of just two sassafras groves in the entire I-285 perimeter of Atlanta and will turn a once-barren railroad bed into a beautiful and flourishing sanctuary for the region’s precious wildlife. The project also served as an exceptional learning opportunity for volunteers of all ages and walks of life, teaching proper planting care techniques and the importance of erosion control. This educational legacy will extend for years to come, as the grove will be one of many stops in the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum’s walking tour program.

Students and teachers helping plant trees at HaCheon Elementary School in Changwon, South Korea.

Students and teachers helping plant trees at HaCheon Elementary School in Changwon, South Korea.

This “Partnership for Trees” also took a trip well across the pond to the city of Changwon, South Korea, where American Forests and Alcoa Foundation helped to plant trees at an urban elementary school. The grant enabled ChangWon Making Movements Group to involve 95 students and teachers in transforming HaCheon Elementary School into a vibrant green place. The total of about 150 volunteers (including Alcoa Korea employees, city officials and NGO representatives) had a goal of planting about 500 trees and wound up planting over 2,000 in just two hours.

This new green space of elm and pine trees is obviously a clear representation of what American Forests and Alcoa Foundation has set out to accomplish, but it’s also emblematic of something that’s perhaps even greater in scope. Project Director Kang TaeHun saw more for Changwon than just a few patches of green in a bustling and thriving city. He also centered this project around an elementary school for a monumental reason. He wanted to instill the importance of tree planting and care in Changwon’s children, while also showing them the joys of planting and environmental stewardship. The case of HaCheon Elementary School is far from isolated, but rather a snapshot from Taehun’s dream for Changwon and its people of all ages. That dream is to cultivate a city of people dedicated to realizing their home’s beautifully natural potential. It’s a movement in the word’s truest sense.

Dreams, like those in Georgia and South Korea, are what drive American Forests and Alcoa Foundation to extend a green thumb to the world. This partnership is dedicated not solely to reforesting communities, but to engaging the communities as well. These projects work to inspire a new generation of tree-people of all ages, who are all dedicated to a healthy and vibrant home for themselves and their neighbors. In 2011, American Forests and Alcoa Foundation joined hands and outstretched them to all corners of the globe, and the result will be self-evident for years to come.

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