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Life imitates art.

Profiles of people who make a difference for trees and forests

Back in 1975, Walter Fauerso of Richmond, California, read the famed Jean Giono tale, The Man Who Planted Trees, and began daydreaming about becoming a Johnny Appleseed.

"But if you don't plan to follow through," says Walt Fauerso, "you better keep your mouth shut. I talked about it to the wrong person, and he said, 'Why don't you get off your butt?' That very day I wrote out a proposal to Chevron."

Fauerso (pronounced Farso) asked Chevron to fund a tree-planting campaign by Chevron retirees. The rest is history.

Fauerso, now 71, has inspired his fellow retirees to plant 66,775 trees all told. Formerly a chief design engineer for Chevron, he has coordinated or led a total of 43 trips to national forests and Nature Conservancy preserves.

Over the years,he has recruited 100 volunteers, located tree-planting sites and made projected arrangements with rangers, set up bus transportation and meals, and--with the help of his wife of 47 years, Esther--compiled detailed statistics on the number of seedlings, acorns, and cuttings planted, and kept a detailed record of each volunteer's participation.

Today the group has its own T-shirt emblazoned on the front with "Chevron Retirees Association Tree Planter," and, on the back, a picture of a seedling with exposed roots and the caption "Green End Up."

On their first trip, the tree planter had to transfer from their bus to Forest Service four-wheel-drive vans because of road wash-outs." It was such a disaster," Fauerso recalls, "I thought it was our first and last trip. We had expected to be back by 6 p.m., but we didn't get home until 8."

Not to worry. A week later, the retirees were back at it on a hillside under a hot sun, and the week after that, they were doing their plantings in four inches of snow. Fauerso has even gotten the bus drivers to pitch in. Today he has waiting lists of retirees eager to joint the trips.

Despite rain, snow, steep slopes, hot temperatures, and going from sea level at Richmond (a suburb of San Francisco) to 6,000 feet in a matter of hours, the Chevron retirees have never had an injury or had anyone collapse.

"We've had them get a little woozy from the high altitudes," Fauerso says, "but we just make them sit down and not work any more." The oldest participant is 87.

Sometimes the retirees revisit sites they've planted, and they find the conifers have a survival rate of about 90 to 95 percent and the oaks 70 to 80 percent. One time they had to plant acorns in black adobe soil and yellow clay that was, Fauerso says, "harder than month-old French bread."

They've used various techniques for planting acorns--everthing from yogurt cartons for discouraging gophers to mesh screens for fighting deer, but the latest wrinkle is just punching a hole in the ground and sticking the acorn in--the technique used by Jean Giono's man who planted trees.

No question about it. Walt Fauerso has fulfilled his daydreams. "I feel like I have in some way extended my life," he says. "I've created my own immortality."
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Walt Fauerso and his group of tree-planting retirees
Publication:American Forests
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:533
Previous Article:Wilderness.
Next Article:A global climate change for foresters.
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