Environmentalists pool efforts to boost region’s green canopy

By Betsy Price
Wilmington, DE (March 11, 2011)- Delaware environmentalists hope to plant at least 150,000 trees here as part of a multistate campaign that would see 1 million planted in the region by 2015.

The “Plant One Million” campaign, announced Thursday at the Philadelphia Flower Show, will be spearheaded by the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society, the Delaware Center for Horticulture and the New Jersey Tree Foundation. It’s believed to be the largest multi-state tree-planting campaign in the country. Organizers hope to eventually have a budget of $20 million to $30 million raised from corporations, grants, fundraising events and donations- and leveraged by volunteers who will plant the trees.
While previous campaigns tended to count only the trees planted by horticultural groups, this campaign will embrace those planted by developers, builders, schools, garden groups, homeowners and charities that do things like plant dozens of trees on riverbanks. “We are going to show this country that regionalism will work,” said PHS President Drew Becher. “Regionalism is the way to go in terms of environmental issues.”
If Plant One Million succeeds, it will increase the area’s tree canopy to 30 percent of the land, an important goal at a time when 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas, the only time that’s happened in our history, several speakers said. In the last 50 years, development, pollution and other problems have felled trees that are needed to filter rainwater, shade streets and buildings, prevent runoff to protect water sources- and maintain the connection between people and nature.
Whether the campaign is planting trees in Bucks County north of Philly or in the City of Brotherly Love itself, those trees will protect the Delaware River watershed, said Tom Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forestry Service. He announced the founding of an Urban Field Station in Philadelphia, the second in the country. The first is in New York City. Of the nation’s 750 million acres of forest, 100 million are in urban areas, he said. It’s a green infrastructure that can be compared to the water and road systems, he said. Those two systems can be repaired or replaced relatively quickly if they fail, he said.
“But the challenge that we have with our forest infrastructure is that if we wait until it’s about to degrade, we’re talking decades to lifetimes before we can restore it,” Tidwell said.
In the First State, the Delaware Center for Horticulture plans to expand and augment the programs it’s using for its “20,000 by 2010” tree-planting campaign in Wilmington, which will count toward the 1 million goal. Last year, DCH recorded its best planting year ever, with 1,500 trees going into the ground, increasing the city’s canopy by 10 percent. DCH will give Wilmington residents free trees, paid for partly by economic recovery funds. It’s also already expanding outside the city limits. The center hopes to find funds that will enable it to give away trees around the state- or offer incentives of some kind, said Pamela Sapko, executive director of DCH.
The center already has several spring plantings set up around the state. On March 19, it will plant 100 trees at Fox Point State Park. It’s also scheduled to plant 400 trees in Seaford, 100 in Eagle Glen subdivision in Bear and 100 in Delaware City. In a pilot program, DCH is partnering with Delmarva Power to sell trees to residents for $25 in the hope that the trees will provide shade for homes and buildings and reduce energy costs, Sapko said. Plant One Million will see 300,000 trees planted in Philadelphia, 150,000 in all three counties in Delaware, and the remaining planted in five New Jersey (Salem, Gloucester, Camden, Burlington and Mercer) and four Pennsylvania counties (Chester, Montgomery, Delaware and Bucks).
“We say a million,” Becher says. “We’ll be planting over a million as part of this program, because we know we will have some kill rate.” Plant One Million will rely on those who plant trees to record their plantings online at plantonemillion.com, a website that will go live in April. And the campaign will include training for people to document the trees in their neighborhoods and towns, as well as training for how to care for them.
Related Resources:
The News Journal- Environmentalists pool efforts to boost region’s green canopy
Horticultural Society launches million-tree initiative
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
The Delaware Center for Horticulture
New Jersey Tree Foundation