Ralph Waldo Emerson aptly surmised, “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” If that’s the case, there are millions of forested acres being born every day with the advent of Earth Day and Arbor Day actionable celebrations.

Landowners and communities are planting these living “lungs” as a way to absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air, provide oxygen and help to regulate the climate. They also prevent soil erosion, conserve water and provide habitats for wildlife. Trees can increase property values, provide shade that reduces cooling costs and can produce fruit or timber that can be sold.

People often have emotional connections to trees, whether it’s because of memories associated with a particular tree or a desire to leave something behind that will live on after they’re gone. Planting trees can be a way to bring people together and create a sense of community. It can be a shared project that brings people of different ages, backgrounds and abilities together.

Planting trees with your kiddos provides a tangible sense of accomplishment and ownership, a connection to nature, a way to learn about the lifecycle of plants, the importance of trees in our ecosystem, how to care for a living organism and an environmental awareness to take action to protect the planet.

Soil & Water Conservation District tree sales are enhancing a locally led effort in providing an opportunity for community members to participate in environmental conservation efforts. By engaging with the community, Conservation District tree sales raise awareness about the importance of trees and other environmental issues which play an important role in promoting environmental conservation, soil and water conservation and community engagement.

Forests born every day

By planting trees as children, these two are committing to a long-term investment both in the environment and in their futures. Photo by Troy Bishopp

In the Northeast, research shows forests are an important tool in carbon sequestration. As an example, “New York’s public and privately-owned forests and agroforestry practices serve as a major carbon sink that hold 1,911 million metric tons [MMT] of carbon, nearly 10 times the amount of carbon produced by all sectors each year. In addition, forests sequester approximately 26.6 MMT CO2 annually,” as cited by the NYS CLCPA Scoping Plan.

With all the good news about trees and tree planting initiatives, there is concern too. Restoration ecologist Karen Holl has a simple message for anyone who thinks planting 1 trillion trees will reverse the damage of climate change. In a commentary that appears in the May 8, 2022 issue of Science, she said, “We can’t plant our way out of climate change. It is only one piece of the puzzle.” (Holl is a professor of environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz and a leading expert in forest restoration.)

Many scientists say while planting trees is good, cutting down an old growth forest and planting new trees that will take decades to mature is not a cure-all for tackling global warming and climate change, especially when greenhouse gases (GHG) continue to be emitted. This issue has been highlighted by many experts, who suggested that equal focus should be given to halting deforestation and reducing GHG emissions in the first place.

“The best way to harness the potential of trees is to focus on the more politically complicated effort of saving our existing forests. It’s far cheaper to prevent damage than to restore them after they have been degraded or destroyed,” stated Henry Paulson, writer for the Financial Times Online Magazine.

Most conclude inspiring human behavior change and working on emissions reduction and sequestration strategies are long-term approaches.

“To plant trees is to give body and life to one’s dreams of a better world.” – Russell Page

by Troy Bishopp