Public-Private-Nonprofit Partners Aim to Plant 20 Million Trees

WASHINGTON, DC, May 2, 2005 (ENS) - The planting of 20 million trees across the United States is the goal of a new partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, two nonprofit organizations and a private company. Announced on Friday to mark Arbor Day, the cooperative conservation effort will leverage Forest Service funding with dollars from the private sector to restore forest cover on and adjacent to national forests and grasslands.

Serving as a catalyst, Coleman Natural Foods, the largest natural meat company in the United States, formed a creative working partnership with the nonprofit American Farmland Trust and another nationwide nonprofit organization, American Forests as well as the U.S. Forest Service.

The 10 year long project, Eco-Project 2015, was launched with Colemanís commitment to plant one million trees and a challenge to companies and individual citizens to help plant nine million more trees.

As a primary partner, the Forest Service will match each tree planted by Coleman, its retailers and customers for a total of 20 million trees.

seedling

Tree seedling is set out on the land. (Photo courtesy NCFA)
This year, its 100th anniversary, the Forest Service will contribute $200,000 for the projects, with another $100,000 coming from Coleman.

The Forest Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will direct the funds to support the National Fire Plan and the Healthy Forests Initiative, which logs public lands to remove trees that Forest Service officials claim may burn in spreading wildfires. Conservation groups have been critical of the program that they say is used to authorize the logging of marketable timber, rather than hazardous fuels.

A total of $300,000 this year will be spent on the reforestation effort, said Agriculture Under Secretary Mark Rey, who has oversight of the Forest Service.

A 10 foot Colorado blue spruce was planted Friday on the grounds of USDA's headquarters on the Washington Mall to commemorate the partnership. The tree was chosen to honor Coleman's home state of Colorado. Officials helping to plant the spruce included Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Rey, Senators Hilary Clinton, a New York Democrat, and Republicans Conrad Burns of Montana and Larry Craig of Idaho.

Debra Gangloff, executive director of American Forests and Douglas Wheeler, chairman of the American Farmland Trust were present, along with Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Andrew Johnson.

The first of the initial 15 projects involves the Nez Perce Tribe, which has been awarded a total of $60,000 in cost-share funds to reforest 8,000 of its acres that were devastated in 2003 by the Mile Post 59 wildfire. Located in Idaho, the area borders the Clearwater River, which several communities depend on for their drinking water.

Coleman

Mel Coleman Jr. was raised on the fifth generation Coleman Ranches in Saguache, Colorado, where his father, Mel Coleman, Sr., started the Coleman Natural Meats business in 1979. (Photo courtesy Coleman)
"We've undertaken our land-based ecosystem program to improve and preserve our environment," said Mel Coleman, Jr. at the tree planting ceremony. "This challenge is on behalf of today's generation of Americans and for many more generations to follow," he said.

"We care about more than just selling our products. The Coleman family and company have always been dedicated to preserving the environment. We sincerely hope others throughout the country will join us to reach our 20 million tree planting goal," Coleman said.

The initial 15 projects are in Alabama, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, Texas and Wyoming, but plans are to plant trees in every state throughout the country. Many of the seedlings will come from Forest Service nurseries.

In addition, The Coleman Eco-Project 2015 will undertake an education and training program to protect 100 million acres of working farms and ranches. In cooperation with American Farmland Trust's Education and Outreach Project, Coleman will produce the Rocky Mountain Agricultural Landowners' Guide to Conservation and Sustainability in the fall.

"This guide will assist farmers and ranchers in the western states to expand productivity and stewardship through federal, state and local farm and ranch land protection programs and innovative and sustainable agricultural practices," said Ralph Grossi, president of American Farmland Trust.

This year, grocers Wild Oats Markets, Knowlan's and select Whole Foods and A&P stores will display a tear pad with a UPC bar code that will permit customers to make a $1 contribution at each store checkout to the Coleman Eco-Project 2015. A tree will be planted for each dollar contribution made to the challenge and matched by the Forest Service.

A Coleman product purchase is not required and Coleman contributions to the project are not contingent on sales. Other retailers from coast-to-coast are also planning to participate in the program.

The Forest Service will plant the trees with the resources provided by American Forests. Funds can be contributed to the Coleman Eco-Project 2015 at: www.americanforests.org or by a link from www.colemannatural.com.