Goal of planting 1 million trees is finally taking root

By Lee Benson
Murray, UT (May 2, 2011)- Morgan Selph, also known as Mr. Tree in certain circles, is breathing easier this year. A year ago he was a tad stressed. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon had put him in charge of the county’s Million Trees for One Million People project that was launched in 2007. The goal: to see a million more trees added to the county landscape by 2017, thereby reducing the valley’s carbon footprint, easing the inversion and improving the landscape in the process.

But at the three-year mark the scoreboard had counted only 147,000 new trees planted. At that rate, it would be the Half-Million Trees for One Million People project. In an attempt to close the gap, Morgan did two things: One, he ratcheted up his appeals to companies, clubs, volunteer groups, cities and anyone who owed him money to PLANT MORE TREES.
Two, he improved his accounting. And the result? In his annual Arbor Day update reported last Friday, he was happy to announce the current tally at 382,892 trees. That’s a stunning 236,000 increase in a single year. So who did his accounting? The guys from Enron? Nope, says Morgan, the guys from TreeUtah. TreeUtah is the Salt Lake City-based nonprofit with the motto, “Working together to make Utah a greener place – one tree at a time.”
Morgan got TreeUtah volunteers to call Salt Lake County nurseries to find out how many trees they sold. These totals, minus 10 percent to account for the standard return rate, were then added to the numbers recorded at www.milliontrees.slco.org, the website where private citizens and civic groups are encouraged to report new plantings. “I recognize there’s a chance we could count some trees twice this way,” Morgan acknowledges. “However, so many don’t get counted, either because nobody reports them or because the trees come from a supplier outside the county, that I figure it’s a wash; actually way more than a wash.”
The important part is what the numbers reflect: that more people are buying and planting more trees. “We’re seeing momentum,” says Morgan. “We’re seeing more and more people getting involved.” More and more companies and corporations have jumped on the tree bandwagon, says Morgan, by organizing employee planting events. They work with the county to acquire the trees and then everyone takes the afternoon off to plant them.
Groups like the Boy Scouts have also become big planters. Last fall, Morgan says, a Boy Scout troop in Sandy organized an event that planted 1,250 trees in two hours. Two months of that, and you’d have your million trees right there. Just last Monday, the Salt Lake Bees handed out a tree each to the first 1,000 people in the gates. It wasn’t bat night or hat night, it was tree night.
Every little bit adds up, says Morgan, who gave his annual State of the Trees report Friday while emceeing Murray City’s annual Arbor Day and Earth Day celebration. Murray has been a tree leader long before the Million Trees crusade. The city has been designated an official Tree City for 34 years in a row by the national Arbor Day Foundation in recognition of its progressive forestry program. At the event, talented kids from the city’s nine elementary schools and one pre-school showed up with their winning art projects that reflected this year’s theme: “Trees are Terrific … Where You Live and Play.”
When Morgan told the kids, “Trees are the lungs of our cities” he was preaching to people who knew what he was talking about. “We’re now right on schedule for a million trees,” he was happy to announce.” We just need to keep planting.” That’s 382,892 down, 617,108 to go.

Related Resources:

Deseret News- Goal of planting 1 million trees is finally taking root
Salt Lake County One Million Trees for One Million People