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A helping hand for damaged land.

Citizens and businesses alike are embracing a plan that turns dollar bills into habitat-restoring trees in embattled public forests.

The sound of tapping is once again heard through the trees of Francis Marion National Forest in the savannah of South Carolina. It's a daily ritual that's increasing, thanks to the restoration of about 10,000 of the 12,000 acres of long-leaf pine leveled by 1989's Hurricane Hugo. The storm knocked out 67 percent of the forest's population of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers and 90 percent of their longleaf cavity nest sites.

It's but one example of how citizens and corporations are quietly helping to restore the damaged public lands by contributing to AMERICAN FORESTS' Global ReLeaf Forests program. Through Global ReLeaf Forests, AMERICAN FORESTS joins with local citizens and resource experts to restore habitat on public lands that otherwise would go wanting. The projects, which now total 70 sites in 33 states - more than 4.2 million trees - plant trees to protect endangered and threatened animals, restore native species, and improve recreational opportunities.

For Francis Marion National Forest, grants in 1993 and 1994 have made all the difference, says silviculturist John DuPre. The money made it possible to replant the longleaf pine and allow the woodpeckers to recover to more than 90 percent of their previous level.

"Left to their own devices, most of them would have had to roast out in the open and be subject to predators," DuPre says. "Without the program the birds would have dropped down to a very poor level. It would've taken 50 years or more to get back to the previous level.

"I feel real good about it," he adds. "I'd been working on this forest about 10 years, and it was a real scene of devastation. Now we're not too far from where we were before the hurricane hit."

The program's simple contribution guidelines - $1 plants one tree - and its insistence that the trees be the right species in the right place planted the right way have struck a chord with both individuals and corporations. Specialty retailer Eddie Bauer pledged to fund eight Global ReLeaf Forest sites in the U.S. and Canada through an "Add a Dollar, Plant a Tree" program initiated last year, and matched the first 75,000 trees planted through customer donations. Close to 350,000 trees have been planted so far through the program, which asks customers to add $1 to their purchases at stores and through catalogs (see Employees Dig Into Effort, page 36).

Eddie Bauer joins Bruce hardwood floors, Briggs & Stratton, Sterling Vineyards, Larson-Juhl, and a host of other companies in supporting Global ReLeaf.

"It's something very worthy that we will keep doing," says Karen Rauter, special projects coordinator at Woodstock Percussion, which donates $1 to plant a tree each time a customer returns a card enclosed with its wooden Chimes of the Forest.

"Being a wooden wind chime maker, we utilize resources all the time. We got the package from Global ReLeaf and it fit our program perfectly," Rauter says. "The customers like it. It seems like we get a card back for every chime we sell."

The mascot for Bruce hardwood floors, a squirrel called Andy the Acorn, talks with children at trade shows about Global ReLeaf Forests and the importance of reforestation, says Julie Kidd, assistant to the vice president of sales and marketing. The company does not make a big splash with customers about its conservation efforts, Kidd says, but contributes to hardwood plantings through both Global ReLeaf Forests and the Hardwood Forestry Fund, a voluntary effort by the wood industry.

Another contributor to Global ReLeaf Forests is showing that its "green" extends beyond its hundreds of acres of grapevines in Napa Valley, California. Sterling Vineyards' Plant the Planet program has planted over 20,000 trees in Global ReLeaf Forests projects across the country.

"We consider ourselves farmers. And as such we take the stewardship of the land very seriously," says Executive Vice President Cary Gott. "People need trees, not only because they're aesthetically pleasing, but because they perform so many functions that are truly essential to humanity."

The benefits vary from site to site. Amid the lake country of central Minnesota, Pillsbury State Forest - once a haven for loggers - is now a tourist stop. Program forester Bud Bertschi is working with the Global ReLeaf Forests program and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to restore the forest's native white pine. The Global ReLeaf grant allowed him to add 12,500 trees in May 1994. He envisions a day in the next century when more of Pillsbury State Forest will be home to the recently reintroduced gray wolf and the white-tailed deer.

In Hawaii, Global ReLeaf is working with Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge to restore native trees and the plant and animal life they support. The arrival of ranchers - and with them pigs that degrade the ground cover, disease, and exotic grasses for cattle grazing - have already spelled the end for numerous tropical birds and plants. But hopes are high for a 4,000-acre grassland at the forest's highest elevation.

Over the past five years, a Global ReLeaf Forests grant has planted 151,000 native koa trees in corridors ranging over 490 acres. "If we can get the birds to fly out of the old forests and start using this new habitat, it'll help to reestablish the native plant and animal life," says Richard Wass, refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That's because the high altitude lies over the mosquito belt, which has brought disease to species in the lower lands since livestock was introduced. Eight endangered birds and the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat live at the refuge.

'A Godsend'

Robert Taylor, district silviculturist at Conecuh National Forest, also dreams of future populations of plants and animals now rarely seen in his Alabama forest: Japanese honeysuckle and native jasmine, gopher tortoises,endangered Indiana gray bats, the red-cockaded woodpeckers.

"Global ReLeaf has been a godsend to us," Taylor says, particularly in the light of a lack of funding from Congress.

Two Global ReLeaf Forests grants in 1994 and 1995 enabled Taylor and others to plant 348,000 longleaf pine seedlings on 373 acres, an area that includes a cave housing the Indiana gray bat. Taylor expects to see a related increase in the population of gopher tortoises, which prefer the open groves associated with longleaf pine, and perhaps even the threatened Eastern indigo snake, which uses gopher burrows for food and shelter.

"There's not been one (of the snakes) recorded in this forest for many, many years," Taylor says.

Species Protection a Plus

The protection of endangered and threatened species is one benefit that AMERICAN FORESTS' Bill Tikkala, special projects forester and coordinator of the Global ReLeaf Forests program, says he and his review board like to see when deciding which projects to fund. Burned forests and natural disaster areas are high on the priority list, as are streamside woodlands and landfills.

Capped landfills have great potential for tree planting but often go lacking, Tikkala says. These former dump sites have traditionally been planted with grass due to unnecessary fears that tree roots will pierce the "clay-cap" that seals in water-borne pollutants (see "A Dump No More," Autumn 1995).

"It's a shame to see that type of acreage go to waste," Tikkala says, adding he is working with some localities to fund projects on closed landfills. Working together to solve problems is one of the program's goals. Despite the wealth of goodwill - and worthy projects - out there, not every request can be funded. There is simply not enough money; only 40 percent of 1996's proposed projects received funding.

"A lot of the proposals have good stories about restorative potential," Tikkala adds. "The money just doesn't go that far."

Corporate contributions can help. Bruce hardwood floors is funding a hardwood forest at Mississippi's St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge that not only is restoring a riparian area, but providing new hope for the threatened bald eagle and a stopover point for migratory neotropical birds.

The project had great appeal not just because it was a hardwood project, but "it had so many things going for it. It wasn't just 'plant trees' and walk away," says Bruce Hardwood's Kidd. In addition to the multiple-use benefits, St. Catherine Creek will provide information to help in foresting flood-prone sites at other locations.

The refuge includes about 15,000 acres of bottomland cleared for soybean farming in the 1960s; 12,000 of those acres have been set aside for the gradual return of hardwoods. This year, refuge manager Tom Prusa says, they planted 120,000 seedlings over 400 acres.

It's a slow pace, but Prusa says that's to be expected. "This is a brand new refuge, and we're hard-pressed to get the money."

Nevertheless, he's excited about the future of St. Catherine Creek. Two bald eagle nests were found elsewhere on the refuge's grounds last year (joining the one spotted previously), and he expects to see more bald eagles and endangered Louisiana black bears as the hardwoods grow. Migratory birds from South America, including warblers, waterfowl, and peregrine falcons, also will benefit.

In the meantime, soybeans continue to be planted to prevent black willow from spreading and interfering with the hardwood plantings. And, Prusa hopes, one day even the soybean farmers will say the land is better off back in hardwoods.

The difficulties inherent in bringing a project from proposal to reality often go beyond just finding funding. For Pennsylvania's fire-ravaged Sproul State National Forest, those difficulties include deer, climate, and location.

A nibbling deer population that likes red oak, white ash, black cherry, and sugar maple seedlings necessitates that each seedling be covered by a protective tree shelter, adding both time and expense.

The planting conditions are not ideal, either. "We plant on top of a mountain, and the snow is slow to melt," Norman Lacasse of the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources says. "The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry needs to take a tractor with an augur and drill holes for us, which is a big help."

State Forest officials hope to eventually replant 10,000 acres of native hardwoods to restore trees lost to the Two Rocks Run fire in April 1990. Volunteers are able to reforest 10 to 12 acres a year, and Pennsylvania has received Global ReLeaf Forests grants over three years toward the effort. It is also hoped additional hardwoods will bring an increase in the Sproul's population of fishers, a relative of the weasel that feeds on deer carcasses.

Support Not Lacking

The obstacles project leaders face in bringing back these embattled ecosystems is one reason why they became Global ReLeaf Forests - the program targets difficult but worthwhile projects that would go lacking without its help. In addition to having qualified experts overseeing the planting and care of the forests, the projects must demonstrate local support for materials and manpower.

Luckily that's one aspect that doesn't seem to be lacking. Partner lists provided to the Global ReLeaf Forests program prove local communities are eager to get involved. Florida's Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve Project, which is managed by The Florida Nature Conservancy and is an Eddie Bauer-sponsored Global ReLeaf Forest, even found itself the beneficiary of college-age muscle this year as students in a national program pitched in over spring break to plant 10,000 trees.

And corporate partners are finding they want to be involved outside the office as well. Bruce hardwood's Julie Kidd says she contributes personally to the campaign, often giving a $10 donation to plant 10 trees for special events like wedding gifts, new babies, and memorials. "I can't tell you the comments I've gotten back," along with requests from the recipients for contribution forms.

"When you want to send a remembrance but a gift is not appropriate, the trees are a perfect solution," she says. "It's the kind of thing you can do for anybody for any occasion."

RELATED ARTICLE:

While Global ReLeaf Forests are currently found only in the U.S. and Canada, a related program - the Global ReLeaf Fund - helps finance urban plantings in this country and urban and rural tree plantings overseas. These projects are carried out in conjunction with AMERICAN FORESTS' 20 Global ReLeaf International partners in other countries. Picture-frame manufacturer Larsen-Juhl has donated funds to plant trees in Costa Rica, Gambia and the Philippines, in addition to funding trees within our borders. Contributions from engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton made possible tree plantings in the United States and in Ecuador, England, Germany, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, and Ukraine. - Ashok Natarajan

RELATED ARTICLE: Employees Dig into Effort

A little faith goes a long way - or in this case, a richly forested way - thanks to the employees and customers of specialty retailer Eddie Bauer in their efforts toward the Eddie Bauer/Global ReLeaf Add a Dollar, Plant a Tree campaign. The campaign invites customers to add a dollar to purchase totals to plant a tree in a Global ReLeaf Forest. Close to 350,000 trees have been planted so far in the eight sites the company is funding. Eddie Bauer matched the first 75,000 trees in honor of the company's 75th anniversary in 1995.

Employees at the two stores bringing in the most donations - in British Columbia and Arizona - have been especially faithful in their efforts. "We're probably so successful because we know and believe in the project, and that carries through in conversations with customers," says Wayne Nagai, manager of the Eddie Bauer in Scottsdale Fashion Square, Arizona, which is responsible for the planting of almost 3,000 trees.

That may also be the case at the Eddie Bauer store at Mayfair Shopping Center in Victoria, British Columbia. Employees there have collected 10,000 tree-planting donations to date - the most among all stores. "They're excited, and they translate that excitement back to the customer," Judy Passmore, assistant manager, explains.

"We're very proud to work for a company that has contributed toward environmental causes," Passmore says. "It's nice to work for a company you feel proud of."

"We developed the program in recognition of our outdoor heritage and we believe it's a concrete and sustainable way to ensure that the beauty and wonder of the forests remain for future generations to enjoy," says company president Rick Fersch. - Ashok Natarajan

Ashok Natarajan is an intern in AMERICAN FORESTS' communications department.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on specialty retailer Eddie Bauer; citizen and corporate support for AMERICAN FORESTS's Global ReLeaf Forests program
Author:Natarajan, Ashok
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jun 22, 1996
Words:2401
Previous Article:Digging in.
Next Article:Urban carbon: a look behind the research.
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