The Nature Conservancy Plants 51,000 Native Trees in Ottawa National Forest.

May tree planting part of a multi-year project to repair riparian areas impacted by spruce budworm.

Forested wetland area.

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KENTON, Mich. — The Nature Conservancy in Michigan (TNC), in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and with the help of contractors, planted 51,000 native conifer tree seedlings across approximately 170 acres in the East Branch Ontonagon River Watershed and the Perch River Watershed of the Ottawa National Forest near Kenton, Mich.

These conifer seedlings are planted near cold and cool water streams to help replace trees impacted by spruce budworm. These spruce budworms defoliate the spruce and fir trees along streams, thereby letting more sunlight hit the streams which increases stream temperatures.

“Our forests are critical habitats for wildlife, help filter water and moderate our climate. This project will help restore tree cover in areas that are vital to cold water trout that are threatened by warming waters,” said Mindy Kantola, forest partnerships project manager at TNC. “We’re proud to continue this partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, Ottawa National Forest because climate resilient lands and waters benefits us all.”

The project, which has been ongoing through multiple agreements since 2018, diversifies near stream forest cover needed for both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. The project also protects water quality by improving stream bank stabilization with natural vegetation reducing erosion potential. Last year, 40,000 trees were planted across 131 acres in the Paint River Watershed.

 “The Ottawa National Forest is grateful for the partnership with The Nature Conservancy,” said Ottawa National Forest Supervisor Darla Lenz. “This partnership has led to numerous projects beneficial to the Ottawa including over 1,500 acres of riparian tree planting efforts, stewardship timber harvests and recreational and wilderness area trail maintenance and boardwalk construction.”

Through the partnership, TNC has identified, prioritized and implemented the underplanting of a mix of white pine, red pine, white spruce, tamarack, hemlock and cedar tree seedlings. TNC staff identify and flag areas where trees will be planted a season in advance. In May, TNC staff picked up trees from local nurseries and staged them at drop points in the field. Timberland Forestry Services, a contractor based in Munising, MI, planted the trees.

You can view the impact of spruce budworm here and see one up close here.

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. The Nature Conservancy is working to make a lasting difference around the world in 77 countries and territories (41 by direct conservation impact and 36 through partners) through a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on X.