Last year, two wildfires that raged through California in November took around 90 lives and destroyed over 20,000 structures. Those disasters, the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire, came at the end of a long and devastating wildfire season for the state, one of the worst in its history that consumed over 500,000 acres, and with it thousands of trees.
Restoring native tree species to parts of the state that burned is just one of many projects that the Arbor Day Foundation will undertake as part of a sweeping new initiative to plant 100 million trees by 2022. Time for Trees, as the initiative is called, will be comprised of multiple projects across the globe, ranging from reforestation efforts, like those that will take root in California, to urban and suburban community tree-planting efforts. Around 65% of the projects will unfold in rural areas, and the rest in more populated communities. The aim is to combat the 18 million acres of forests that are lost globally each year. While 100 million trees is only a fraction of the overall forest debt we must recover, the Arbor Day Foundation is confident it will make an impact: That many trees can remove 578,000 tons of pollution from the air.
To get 100 million trees in the ground in the next three and a half years, the Arbor Day Foundation will tap an expansive network of corporate and nonprofit partners around the world, united under the Evergreen Alliance, which formed to make this initiative possible. Corporations like Bank of America, FedEx, Target, and power company Exelon have pledged to initiate tree-planting programs in the communities where they operate. As part of its commitment to the Time for Trees program, Exelon will distribute free native trees to communities and homeowners to increase shade (which will lower peoples’ energy costs) and improve the overall health of communities. Target will select eight communities where it has a presence in the U.S., and recruit hundreds of volunteers to plant trees there.
For reforestation efforts in rural lands, like in parts of California, the initiative will work with the U.S. Forest Service and National Parks Service, along with state organizations like the California Forest Foundation to carry out projects. In addition to restoring burned forest on public lands, the Arbor Day Foundation will work with homeowners and local organizations to replant 2 million trees on private lands. For international efforts, they’ll work with a similar combination of national partners and nonprofits. In all, the Arbor Day Foundation estimates it will work with 5 million diverse tree-planting partners to get this initiative done.
The Time for Trees initiative “is pushing us, for sure,” says Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. Since the organization was founded in 1972, it’s succeeded in planting around 300 million trees. Through this new push, they want to grow that number by one-third, in less than one-tenth of the time. “This is a big jump in scale for us,” Lambe says.
Even so, the Arbor Day Foundation is approaching this massive undertaking not as one sweeping project, but a bunch of smaller, swiftly moving ones. “For every project, we consult closely with our planting partners and sponsors to make sure we’re planting the right type of trees for the landscape, and sourcing those trees as locally as possible,” Lambe says.
By the numbers, the Time for Trees initiative is significant, but not remarkable–a single reforestation effort launched by Conservation International in the Brazilian Amazon in 2017, for instance, aimed to get 73 million trees in the ground over the course of six years. But what Time for Trees hopes to do is ignite tree-planting initiatives across the globe, and through the organized effort, ensure that the momentum keeps going. As the initiative unfolds, people can visit the Arbor Day website to learn more about where projects are happening near them.