Trees for Wildlife
To help restore habitat and disaster-damaged areas, NWF is providing youth thousands of native trees to plant
Roger Di Silvestro
KC CRUZ WAS ONLY THREE YEARS OLD when an arsonist started the Hayman Fire 35 miles north of her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in June 2002. The fire wasn’t brought under control for 40 days, by which time it had destroyed 138,000 acres and forced more than 5,300 people to evacuate, including KC and her family. Her home was saved but, despite her age at the time, her memories of the fire endure.
Consequently, when the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire blazed out of Pike National Forest and into Mountain Shadows, a wooded residential subdivision near her home, KC recalled how the support of other people had helped her family during their crisis. Now she wanted to aid those whose homes were among the nearly 400 damaged or destroyed by the Waldo flames. “I just really wanted to show the victims of the fire that other people do care,” KC says.
Her caring took the form of trees. “Almost everyone who lost a home lost their landscaping,” KC’s mother, Brook, says. Through NWF’s Trees for Wildlife™ program, KC secured 450 blue spruce—a native Colorado species—from the Colorado Forestry Department and gave them to Waldo victims for replanting their communities.
KC’s project was one of many that NWF has supported through Trees for Wildlife, designed to promote the growth of urban and suburban trees. The program teaches children and adults about the value of the environment, increases the nation’s tree cover as a means to protect and improve natural resources and helps children value nature stewardship.
Recent research from the U.S. Forest Service shows that urban trees across the nation store an estimated 708 million tons of carbon, an environmental service with an estimated value of $50 billion. Trees also help to cool urban areas in summer. Trees in parking lots can reduce summer heat in car interiors by as much as 47 degrees F.
To participate in the NWF project, tree enthusiasts apply by filling out a form showing where they want to plant trees and identifying the tree species they need. Once accepted, they can order trees through NWF, which provides seedlings with a tree-care guide and activities for children and youths.
The Trees for Wildlife program has planted some 65,000 trees throughout the United States since NWF began running it in 2009. “During NWF’s National Wildlife Week last March, some 5,000 children and 2,000 parents helped out,” says Eliza Russell, director of NWF education programs. “Many of the plantings are designed to restore areas destroyed by disasters, like tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri, and areas in New Jersey struck by Hurricane Sandy.”
The program allows NWF to provide support to citizen conservationists like KC who want to enhance their communities. KC is helping the people to whom she’s given seedlings monitor their trees, and she continued her project in the fall with support from NWF members and donors. “She’s making life-long friends,” says her mother, Brook.
How You Can Help
Sign up for NWF’s Trees for Wildlife™ program and qualify for free trees. You can purchase items that help NWF plant trees here.
Roger Di Silvestro is a National Wildlife senior editor.