Horticultural Society launches million-tree initiative

By Virginia A. Smith
Philadelphia, PA (March 10, 2011)- Before an audience of 300 tree-lovers, Drew Becher officially launched an ambitious plan to coordinate the planting of one million trees in the Philadelphia region, South Jersey, and Delaware by 2020.

The president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society chose a tree conference at the Philadelphia International Flower Show to announce the program, which will cover 13 counties and require the cooperation of local governments, schools, community groups, and residents, as well as training for 10,000 volunteers and $20 million to $30 million from government, foundation, and corporate sources.
Becher, who before coming to PHS in 2010 headed the New York Restoration Project’s million-tree initiative, said in an interview that he already had commitments for more than $1 million. Proceeds from the Flower Show, which runs through Sunday at the Convention Center, will also be tapped, as will $2.5 million in 2011 city funds for its part of the program.
Michael DiBerardinis, city parks and recreation commissioner, said Mayor Nutter’s Greenworks environmental plan called for 300,000 new trees in Philadelphia by 2015. Philadelphia and other cities have traditionally focused on street trees, which DiBerardinis called “Cadillac trees. They take longer to grow, they’re more expensive to grow, and more expensive to plant,” he said. The million-tree program will be more diverse. It will include a variety of trees, tree sizes, and planting locations, including residential backyards and business districts.
“Planting street trees is important,” DiBerardinis said, “but we can’t plant a $500 street tree every time and think we’re going to get to 300,000 trees.”
About 200,000 or more are planned for counties surrounding Philadelphia. The other 500,000 will be planted in Delaware and South Jersey. The Delaware Center for Horticulture vowed to get 20,000 trees in the ground by 2020. Lisa Simms, executive director of the New Jersey Tree Foundation, said Camden would get 200 shade trees this spring.
Also Thursday, Tom Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, announced plans to open an Urban Field Station in Philadelphia to promote environmental science and technology. It will be based at the Horticultural Society, at 20th and Arch Streets. Tidwell noted that the United States has 750 million acres of forest land, which includes almost 100 million acres in urban areas. “That’s if anyone thinks trees in your community aren’t important,” he said.
Becher cautioned that planting and tending one million trees will not be easy, nor will fund-raising. He urged that people planting a tree in their back or front yard this spring register it, starting in April, through the PHS website. “Every tree counts. We’re going to be like the census here – count, count, count,” he said.
Related Resources:
The Philadelphia Inquirer- Horticultural Society launches million-tree initiative
Environmentalists pool efforts to boost regions green canopy
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
The Delaware Center for Horticulture
New Jersey Tree Foundation