This spring, 112,000 ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir seedlings were planted in the Boise National Forest as part of the City of Trees Challenge, a ten-year project led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), City of Boise and the Treasure Valley Canopy Network to provide community benefits for Boiseans and fight the effects of climate change. The goals of the challenge are to plant a tree in Boise for every household and a seedling in the forest for every Boise resident.
Now in its second year, TNC and partners requested an additional $50,000 in funding from the Arbor Day Foundation and received $25,000 from a private donor to plant 112,000 more seedlings in the Boise National Forest to restore lands damaged by the 2016 Pioneer Fire. Including this year’s planting, the challenge has helped plant over 150,000 ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir seedlings. The trees will improve soil stability, rehabilitate forest health and wildlife habitat and enhance recreation opportunities for current and future generations of Idahoans.
“Sustainably planting trees and restoring forests, especially after severe wildfires, is a natural climate solution that helps reduce greenhouse gases and restores land for people and nature to thrive,” says Mark Menlove, TNC’s Idaho State Director. “The Nature Conservancy is proud to partner on a tree-planting effort that will benefit Idaho’s forests and communities for years to come.”
The ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir seedlings were planted throughout the Beaver Creek watershed with restoration as the primary conservation objective. Restoration-style planting focuses on planting long-lived tree species at spacing and densities that reflect healthy, fire-adapted ecosystems. The seedlings planted now will become future seed sources that sustain and repopulate surrounding areas that take longer to recover. The planting locations are prioritized in severely burned areas identified as important for wildlife (such as elk, white-headed woodpecker and flammulated owl), aquatic ecosystems (such as critical habitat for bull trout) and recreation. Over a fifty-year period, these trees will offset an estimated 34,751 metric tons of carbon dioxide—the emissions equivalent of taking approximately 7,500 cars off the road for a year.
“The 2016 Pioneer Fire burned through this landscape and left many areas severely impacted. It is one of the Forest’s priority areas for restoration,” said Boise National Forest Supervisor, Tawnya Brummett. “We value this partnership because we are applying on-the-ground actions to improve the habitat for all species, including local communities and visitors who rely on the forest for their quality of life.”
The Boise National Forest has one of the largest sustained reforestation programs in the country. Climate and fuel models predict south and central Idaho will experience an increase in large, intense and severe fires in the future due to decreased snowpack and precipitation and increased temperatures. Partnerships like the City of Trees Challenge and public support for reforestation efforts will be critical to build resiliency in national forests and nearby communities.
The City of Trees Challenge began as an idea by Boise City Council President, Elaine Clegg. This community-wide initiative inspires Boiseans to plant a new tree for every household across the city - in every corner of every neighborhood for a total of 100,000 over ten years. The challenge also impacts forests around the state by empowering Boiseans to sponsor a forest seedling for every Boise resident (235,000 seedlings). The challenge launched in 2020 and the City of Boise has partnered with the Treasure Valley Canopy Network, The Nature Conservancy and green industry partners across the Treasure Valley to meet the challenge’s goals.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.