Replenishing Forests, One Tree at a Time

A group of people work together planting trees
Photo courtesy of Para La Naturaleza

Deforestation is a major issue facing our world today. From 2015 to 2020, almost 25 million acres of forest were lost each year. The loss of forests releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere accelerating climate change, harms biodiversity through habitat destruction, contributes to water pollution and soil erosion, and in many cases interrupts the lives and practices of nearby human communities. While news about deforestation often focuses on the tropics, deforestation is occurring worldwide. Global Forest Watch is an organization that monitors data about forests and combines many data sets into a user-friendly, interactive map that illustrates land use change, tree cover loss, and myriad other factors across different geographic regions. 

A group of youth stand in a line holding tools
Photo courtesy of Red Cloud Renewable

One strategy for investing in the future of our forests is tree planting programs. Planting new trees helps to rebuild habitat, prevent permanent forest loss through land use change, and promote carbon sequestration. Many tree planting programs work with local community members and youth organizations to incorporate environmental education into their efforts and promote a range of long-term pro-environmental behaviors among participants.

Three young people smile at the camera standing near a freshly planted tree
Photo courtesy of Para La Naturaleza

An NRF grantee with a robust tree planting program is Para La Naturaleza. Para La Naturaleza is focused on creating a sustainable future for Puerto Rico. Supported by a grant from NRF, Para La Naturaleza took youth from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico to visit nature preserves on the island, tour tree nurseries, and participate in tree planting projects. Another grantee with a vision for protecting local forests is Red Cloud Renewable (RCR). RCR is a Native-led organization on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. As part of RCR’s NRF grant, Lakota youth planted ponderosa pine seedlings to help preserve local ecosystems and boost biodiversity.

Several people work using tools to plant trees
Photo courtesy of Red Cloud Renewable

Of course, while tree planting programs are a great way to get more trees in the ground and boost community involvement in local environmental efforts, they are not a silver bullet solution. Tree seedlings do not provide the same benefits as mature trees, planting programs struggle to keep up with the scale of global forest destruction, and tree type and placement must be carefully thought through with the help of experts.

Two people plant a tree together, looking at the ground
Photo courtesy of Para La Naturaleza

This does not mean that tree planting is not valuable, simply that it cannot be the only response to deforestation. Tree planting is part of a larger network of environmental efforts that highlight community action and youth involvement in the climate movement. NRF is proud to support Para La Naturaleza and Red Cloud Renewable in welcoming a new generation into essential efforts aimed at protecting forests and their inhabitants.