Restoring the Environment & Lifting Spirits
When storms or wildfires strike a community, the comfort of familiar surroundings is part of the toll wrought by the disaster. Once injuries and property damage are addressed, the slow recovery process begins and this is where Arbor Day Foundation’s Community Tree Recovery Program swings into action.
The purpose of this program is to put trees in the hands of those who have suffered losses. Through this benevolent effort, human spirits are lifted and the many environmental benefits provided by trees begin to be restored.
This program—supported by member donations and our corporate partners—also brings out the best in cooperation among our fellow Americans. Arbor Day Foundation staff and contractors grow seedlings to have ready for emergency use. State and city foresters and extension specialists identify sites that should receive priority. Many also help distribute the trees and provide advice on how to care for them.
When over 100 tornadoes, some with winds up to 200 mph, ripped through northern Alabama in 2011, partners like the U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters came to the aid of local and state officials. With Arbor Day Foundation trees in hand, leadership and technical advice was provided by experts in our partner organizations. The result was 85,000 trees to restore the land and comments like this told on a news program, “We’re thrilled about the new tree program…and are excited about the rebirth.”
To date, more than 150 cities and counties have been helped through the Community Tree Recovery Program with over 1.5 million trees restored to the land. The environmental benefits are enormous. For example, in response to the terrible destruction of Hurricane Sandy, 99,000 trees were distributed to homeowners. Over the next 40 years, these trees will provide:
- Cooling Savings (kWh) = $13,440,683.92
- Heating Savings (kBtu) = $44,542,103.12
- Net Energy Savings (kBtu) = $58,010,734.40
- Net Carbon Dioxide Reductions = 284,796.57 tons
- Air Pollution Reductions = 1,217.70 tons
- Rainfall Interception = 1,429,307,804 gallons
In addition, the impact on people’s hearts is immeasurable. Steve Keselik, a carpenter in Bastrop, Texas, watched helplessly as fire consumed the trees on his five acres when the worst wildfire in his state’s history burned over the land in September of 2011. Later, as trees from the Community Tree Recovery Program were distributed, Steve said, “We lost everything but a handful of things in the fire. These trees have been a real emotional boost for me and my family as we move forward.” As county judge Paul Pape added, the trees help people “to know that life goes on and things can be restored.”
Donna Whitehead helped distribute trees following the devastating tornado that nearly ripped the heart out of Joplin, Missouri, in the spring of 2011. She said, “We set up four giveaway stations through the path of the May 22 tornado, so we were surrounded by the devastation as we gave people little green trees of hope. There were lots of hugs and tears as people thanked us for helping them rebuild their yards.”
Each year, storms and wildfires strike somewhere in our nation. When they do, help in restoring green streets and home landscapes will be there—thanks to the Community Tree Recovery Program and generous donations from members and supporters of the Arbor Day Foundation.