Magazine article American Forests

25 Years of Global Releaf

Magazine article American Forests

25 Years of Global Releaf

Article excerpt


in Au Sable, Mich., that was the first of 50 million trees and counting. It was the very first tree planted as part of the American Forests Global ReLeaf program, to address global challenges facing forests through local action. It was one of 23,000 trees planted in Au Sable State Forest that year.

The next year, Global ReLeaf planted its first international trees in two areas in Hungary. Today, the program has planted trees in 45 countries, all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Some of these restoration sites were damaged by wildfires that burned too intensely after years of misguided fire suppression. Others have been damaged by strip mining or invasive species or have become fragmented habitat through which wildlife can't move freely. But they all have at least one thing in common: They are not expected to regenerate on their own. They need a helping hand to regain their health. And the health of these ecosystems is connected to our health too, as more than half of the drinking water in the U.S. originates in forests, and forests clean our air and sequester carbon.

Just like Global ReLeaf forests, as varied as they are, all Global ReLeaf projects have something in common as well. They have all depended on our close collaborations with a diverse group of partners. We have partnered with the U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Bureau of Land Management; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; state parks, forests and wildlife areas; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Soil and Water Conservation Districts; nonprofit conservation and tree planting organizations; American Indian nations; the Natural Resources Conservation Service; counties; communities; and schools.

In its 25th year, as we celebrate Global ReLeaf's 1,000th project and the planting of our 50 millionth tree, we look back at some of the work we've done. That first tree in Au Sable would become one of more than 1.7 million jack pine planted in several projects throughout Michigan over the next 25 years to improve the habitat of the endangered Kirtland's warbler.

The Kirtland's warbler is a very particular bird, to put it lightly. They breed and nest in only one species--jack pine. What's more, they only select stands of jack pine between six and 22 years of age. This very specific habitat has suffered from the development of farms and roads and the suppression of fire that is critical for the pine's reproduction. By 1951, the Kirtland's warbler population of singing males was just 500.

Today, things are looking up for the warbler. By 2011, the population of singing males had rebounded to 1,828. A visit to Hiawatha National Forest reveals jack pine of diverse ages that represent many different stages of this multi-year initiative. Trees planted in the early days of the project are being utilized by the warblers now, while recently planted seedlings hold the promise of future habitat for the birds. These seedlings will become increasingly important as climate change continues to push the warblers--and the jack pine--north.


Kirtland's Warbler Habitat Planting


TOTAL TREES: 1.7 million

PARTNERS: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service


U.S. Forest Service






Farmland Phase-Out and Revegetation


TOTAL TREES: 1.5 million

partners: Friends of the Wildlife Corridor,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

It may not be the oldest project, but our longest-running continuous project can be found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge where we have been planting trees for 18 consecutive years. Specifically, we have been restoring the talmulipan brushland, a dense mixture of trees and shrubs that serves as home for a number of wildlife species, including the endangered ocelot. …

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