Forest Fog

OPERATION APPLESEED SPRING UPDATE

ON THE ROAD TO OVER 1 MILLION TREES!

Operation Appleseed on Course to Plant over 1 Million Trees

 

Operation Appleseed is well on its way to achieving its goal of planting 1 million trees in Oregon within a 3-year time window. Despite the Covid pandemic, which shut down many of our projects in 2020, the Worthy Garden Club and its friends have already planted nearly 275,000 trees, with many more to come. 

 

With the resumption of the mission this spring, we anticipate that by the end of 2021, we will have put in the ground over 786,000 trees. That’s great news and well beyond our projections. In 2019, when we launched OA, we pledged $1 million to a handful of carefully selected forest stewards for the purpose of planting slightly over 1 million trees. 

 

To date, we’ve donated about $540,000, which means we still have in the bank $460,000 to put to work. We are currently discussing the best and highest use of the bulk of those remaining funds with, among others, Discover Your Forest and Cascade Volunteers,  two non-profits who partner with the US Forest Service on reforestation projects. More on that below.

 

The Mission, Recapped

 

You’ve seen the horrific fires in Oregon. You’ve inhaled the smoke. You’ve seen the devastating impact on wildlife, topsoil, watersheds and hiking trails. You understand that forests contribute to life on Earth by sequestering carbon, adding oxygen, enhancing biodiversity and filtering water. And you know that there is a causal link between the frequency and intensity of wildfires and man-made climate change. 

 

The WGC initiated OA in 2019 thanks in part to the wisdom of our mentor Bill Ripple at Oregon State (author of “Warning to Humanity, A Second Notice”). We now understood the empirical connections between human activities and accelerating global warming. Dr. Ripple’s warning spurred us to take action to remediate the damage we have already done, mitigate our own carbon footprint and build for the future. We targeted reforestation burn zones, especially in the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests, on the premise that we can’t rely 100% on nature to reforest naturally in a world altered by anthropomorphic global warming.

 

The idea was literally launched on a bike ride.  Every year, like clockwork, thousands of cyclists make the annual pilgrimage up the McKenzie Highway (242) from Sisters to the Dee Wright Observatory, through the magnificent forest and 30 feet tall snow banks near the top. In 2019, after the Milli fire, we saw firsthand the depressing wreckage – the charred and skeletal tree trunks, the deep rivulets through the badly damaged topsoil, and the eerie absence of flowers, birds, and wildlife. 

 

We felt compelled to do our part by donating $1M to reforestation projects, starting in our own backyard here in Bend. The goal was simple: Plant 1 million or more trees, utilizing diverse and native species, targeting severe burn zones on public lands in forests between the High Desert and the Coast, with the expectation that whatever we planted would not be clear cut or harvested when mature by the lumber companies. We named our mission “Operation Appleseed” after Johnny Appleseed, the legendary conservationist who we know from childhood traveled the land planting apple trees and protecting wildlife. 

 

Where Have We Planted? 

 

We got off to a fast start before the pandemic hit. With the help of our friends at Cascade Volunteers, Trout Unlimited, the Oregon Natural Desert Association and other non-profits, along with several watershed councils and soil & water conservation districts, we were fortunate to plant in the ground a diverse array of over 274,00 native tree species. 

Here’s a breakdown of the trees and the region in which they were planted:

 

Cascade Volunteers 

 

70,374 trees in the Willamette National Forest, targeting the Jones fire, which in the summer of 2017 scorched over 8,000 acres. Located near Lowell, Oregon.

 

Oregon Natural Desert Assoc. (ONDA)

 

6,000 trees planted along the South Fork of the Crooked River and in the Cottonwood Canyon State Park on the John Day River.

 

Trout Unlimited

 

1,200 trees planted in the riparian zone of the Fall River near Sunriver, Oregon.

 

The Calapooia Watershed Council, North Santiam Watershed Council, Siuslaw SWCD, South Santiam Watershed Council, Long Tom Watershed Council, And McKenzie Watershed Alliance, and others.

 

The above groups together planted 196,115 trees in stressed forests from the Willamette Valley to the Oregon Coast. 

 

We’ve also planted 750 trees at the Tenmile Creek retreat, a 63-acre parcel owned by the WGC, which is located in the Siuslaw National Forest.

 

The Planting Picks Up in 2021

 

Our partners at Discover Your Forest were forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to delay all planned tree plantings.  We will resume planting this Spring, targeting the Milli Fire area in the Cascades. The Milli Fire in 2017 burned 24,000 acres, including many beloved recreation sites and scenic areas, including the McKenzie Pass corridor, discussed above.  Additionally, plantings will take place in the Whychus Watershed where old US Forest service and logging roads are being decommissioned and replanted as natural areas. The return-to-nature effort will protect and preserve Whychus Creek.  In total, DYF will plant 204,390 trees in 2021.

 

Cascade Volunteers and the Willamette National Forest will pick up where they left off, targeting the burn zones from the Jones fire, the Whitewater Fire and the Terwilliger fire. The 2017 Whitewater Fire torched 14,500 acres in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness area and forced the closure of several campgrounds and trails, including the Pacific Coast Trail and the South Breitenbush Trail. 

 

The 2018 Terwilliger fire burned 11,555 acres around Cougar reservoir in the Willamette National Forest, closing the iconic Cougar Hot Springs and the majestic Aufderheide Scenic Highway (FS Rd 19), as well as a number of trails and campgrounds, for over ten months. 

 

This spring, Cascade Volunteers, Worthy Garden Club, and the Willamette National Forest will engage volunteers in planting 2,000 seedlings over 15 acres near the Terwilliger hot springs. This volunteer planting event will happen on April 17-18, and we are happy to report that we are filled to capacity with eager volunteers!

 

All told, by the end of 2021, barring the escalation of Covid 19, more pernicious wildfires, or some other combination of disasters, the WGC will have proudly planted another 512,090 trees, to bring our collective total up to 786,529 trees. We think our patron seed planter Johnny Appleseed would be pleased!

 


 

Surpassing the Million Tree Mark in 2022

 

We are excited about the momentum, which has OA busting through the million-tree target in early 2022.  We are currently strategizing with Discover Your Forest, Cascade Volunteers, the US Forest Service and others about the highest and best use of the remaining funds. 

 

In deciding where the money’s spent and how much, we are guided by several metrics. These include:

  1. Will the OA funded trees be safe from commercial harvesting?

  2. How close is the forest to our home base in Bend, Oregon?

  3. How many diverse native trees per acre can responsibly be planted?

  4. What is the proximity to recreational areas? 

  5. Fire severity – what’s the potential for natural regeneration?

  6. What are the volunteer planting opportunities?

 

The USFS and others have plotted several major reforestation projects in multiple national forests. The needs are many, the resources, sadly, are few. The planting projects range from protecting old growth spotted owl habitats to restoring floodplain habitat for salmon, turtles and trout. They include reforesting recreational areas and building new greenhouses to grow more saplings. 

 

Currently, the WGC is focused on allocating our remaining resources to the following projects:

 

  1. The 2020 Lions Head Fire, which devastated the town of Detroit and severely impacted 204,469 acres of forests and habitats between Breitenbush and Warm Springs

  2. East Cascades Restoration, which includes high profile spots along the Deschutes River, Little Cultus Lake, Elk Lake, the Blue Lagoon, Tumalo Falls and Broken Top 

  3. The 2017 Whitewater Fire which scorched 14,500 acres in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness area

  4. The 2020 Greenridge Fire near Camp Sherman (4,338 acres burned)

  5. The 2020 Beachie Creek Fire in the Opal Wilderness (193,000 acres burned)

  6. The 2020 Paulina Lake Fire which burned 48 acres. 

 

As you know, the past few years have been a dismal year for Oregon’s forests. Countless wildfires have scorched more than 1,000,000 acres. Millions of dollars have been spent fighting the fires. Lives have been lost. The economic losses in the mega-millions.  Entire towns have been wiped out.  Businesses were forced to shut down because of the smoke induced dangerous air quality.

 

Around 10% of the Willamette National Forest was lost to these catastrophic events alone. As the planet’s temperature heats up, and droughts accelerate, and the snowpack diminishes, and pernicious beetles flourish, and the brittle forest floor fuel piles up, the frequency and intensity of wildfires will also ramp up. It’s a cycle that we must slow down. 

 

There are many, many forests that need our help. A million dollars is a good start, but unfortunately it’s merely a drop in the bucket.

 



 

How You Can Help 

 

You can help restore our forests and mitigate the harms caused by global warming in many ways.  

 

First, you can donate to the Worthy Garden Club. We’ve been able to negotiate terms with our partners to bring the price per sapling below $1. The labor and material costs of replanting in a responsible and safe manner can be costly, depending on the conditions of the forest. The USFS has budgeted funds to undertake the planting operations. The USFS has outlined dozens of burn areas in Oregon that need help. Every dollar you donate will be invested in planting trees (no overhead) and the WGC will match your donation. 

 

Second, you can volunteer your time and energy to assist with planting operations. The WGC will be notifying the public of volunteer opportunities as the replanting schedule solidifies. Join our volunteer email list now to stay updated.  Because of Covid-19, there are currently restrictions on the number of volunteers who can cluster, so the roster fills up fast, which is a good thing. 
 

Third, you can summon your inner Lorax and plant trees, shrubs and flowers in your own backyard. High concentrations of plantings have a greater potential to sequester carbon from the air into their roots and soil. Planting trees and shrubs in the right location with healthy soil ensures a long life and increased biodiversity in your backyard. Adding deep rooted perennial flowers and grasses are great ways to add interest to the garden while plants absorb CO2 into their leaves, stems and branches. Flowers and edible plants grown as annuals or cover crops add biomass which absorbs even more carbon and can add nutrients back to the soil as green manures or nitrogen fixation. Cultivating your own garden adds beauty and helps Mother Earth. 

 

And, last but not least, and here’s where it gets even more fun, you can support OA by drinking a glass of Tenmile Lager, brewed by Worthy Brewing in Bend, Oregon. Worthy Brewing donates a percentage of sales of this and other beers to Operation Appleseed. You can help plant trees, one pint at a time. 


For more information about Operation Appleseed, please contact Kody Osborne, Executive Director of the Worthy Garden Club at 541.647.6970 ext. 220 or kody@worthygardenclub.com.

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Thanks to Roger Worthington's vision, and generous seed funding from Worthy Garden Club, we are bringing life to our ambitious plan to plant 1 million trees.

Behind this work is a deep concern about:

Climate change

Wildfire risk

And a deep love for:

Healthy forests

Community & future generations