Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What one community can do to fight global warming

Reforestation program is a necessary part of community-wide planning

by Thomas P. Hagen
"I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree."
When Joyce Kilmer wrote these lines at the beginning of the 20th century he didn’t know the half of it. Trees are more than just lovely assets that increase property values. They are producers of oxygen, providers of shade and cooling in the summer, wind breaks in the winter, absorbers of excess ground moisture preventing excess runoff, and most importantly, absorbers of vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, turning the carbon dioxide into biomass. It has been estimated that seven mature trees absorb the carbon produced by an average adult American in a year. A Minnesota study in the March-April 2006 edition of the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer reported that the 200,000 public trees in Minneapolis alone provide total benefits to the city each year of $24.9 million in energy savings, carbon emission reductions, air pollution abatement, storm water management, aesthetics and enhanced property values. When costs associated with tree planting and management are subtracted, the benefit citywide was still $79 per tree per year for a whopping total of $15.7 million annually.

The best way to control global warming is to curb emissions, but the second best is to create carbon sinks — places in the environment where free carbon dioxide can be fixed by removal from the air. Trees are expert at this, producing beneficial oxygen as a by-product. (Remember the carbon cycle from high school biology?)

Mankato could fix many thousands of tons of carbon dioxide through re-forestation of our hillsides; parks, river and stream sides; highway medians and roadsides; and backyards and boulevards at a minimal cost. Native species tree seedlings are available cheaply each spring. Using community service groups, boy and girl scout troops, FFA chapters, along with adopt a hillside/roadside type programs, in two weeks every spring replanting could be quickly accomplished. Pest species that feed on seedlings (read deer) would need to be controlled, especially in the early years of young tree development. Once trees take root and begin to grow, the need for mowing ditches and hillsides vanishes saving both fuel and labor costs. As the trees mature many years in the future they will furnish biomass that can be utilized as an alternate renewable fuel source as fossil fuels become scarce.

Practiced region-wide, this effort will produce spectacular results for us all: A tree-lined river, shaded walks, sound buffering and the hiding of now ugly on and off ramps and interchanges, wildlife habitat and the enhancement of the natural look of the spectacular Minnesota River valley.
Steal away at midnight
If you fear someone will see,
And out along the highway
Dig a hole and plant a tree.

Plant them in the medians
Of roadways, or near parking lots.
On boulevards, in alleyways,
In short, on every vacant spot.
Do not give up but persevere!
Your flag, each branch and leaf unfurled.
Your shovel high, a war declare
Of green upon the treeless world!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


The April 19 planting was a wild success with 383 volunteers planting over 13,000 seedlings. Here's what the Mankato Free Press had to say:

Hundreds turn out to plant thousands of trees

By Mark Fischenich
The Free Press

NORTH MANKATO— The saplings didn't look like much, just foot-long twigs with a few straggly roots attached.

It took some imagination, a fair amount of faith and a real aptitude for patience to envision the twigs turning into a forest of towering cottonwood, maple and basswood trees.

Sort of like the imagination required to believe that a handful of local environmentalists could raise thousands of dollars to buy trees and get hundreds of area residents to give up a Saturday to plant more than 13,000 of them.

Sort of like the faith required to believe that slaving away on a cool, damp April day in Mankato and North Mankato might make a difference in slowing the rate of global climate change.

Sort of like the patience required to reach a personal goal of 100 seedlings planted in the belief that those 100 might eventually be joined by 999,900 others.

Those attitudes, along with a great doses of optimism, were prevalent Saturday as the Million Tree Project got underway along Highway 14.

“You just want to shake your head and say ‘Fantastic!’,” said Tom Hagen, looking up at the dozens of volunteers scattered across the steep hillside north of the highway. Hagen and Malda Farnham, along with others involved in the Envision 2020 community planning process, were the ones with the abundance of imagination at the beginning of the Million Tree Project. Their vision was to plant a million trees in the two cities, reforesting areas that had been needlessly cleared of trees during construction projects and park development.

They raised money from individuals and corporate donors, bought 15,000 saplings at 50- cents apiece and struggled to persuade the Minnesota Department of Transportation to change the way they managed the Highway 14 roadside. Then they put the word out that they needed volunteers to come out on April 19 and put the trees in the ground.

And 383 did. Along with another 86 school kids and parents that planted some trees on Friday, it all added up to 9,847 hours of volunteer labor and about 13,500 trees in the ground.

That they didn’t get all 15,000 planted wasn’t because they ran out of volunteers willing to work.

They ran out of places to put them. “Not bad for a day’s work,” Hagen said Saturday afternoon, sounding almost giddy. “... I’m feeling great.” Hagen praised all of the volunteers but was particularly effusive in his compliments to the Minnesota State University athletes and their coaches who showed up in waves throughout the day — the soccer squad, the hockey players, the football team.

But there were also older volunteers, including some who just directed traffic to the sites, which also included a large project along the south side of the highway near Good Counsel.

“I’m pushing 80 pretty hard,” said Dave Boyce, who was putting people onto the school bus that ferried groups to the North Mankato planting site.

Boyce said he got involved because he feels an obligation to improve the environment and he has faith that everyone can make a difference.

“It’s the sort of thing we have to do,” Boyce said. “If we don’t make some kind of steps to clean things up, it’ll get worse. That won’t bother me a whole lot, but it sure will my grandkids.”

Bruce Birkemeyer, a retired teacher and selfdescribed tree nut, greeted the volunteers when they got off the bus at the North Mankato planting site.

Birkemeyer demonstrated how the saplings should be put in the ground, then put the people to work.

He described the cool, cloudy day, the damp soil and the rain in the longrange forecast as “perfect conditions” for planting.

“We lucked out,” he said.

Birkemeyer is confident that, with patience, people will see a dramatic change in the look of the highway.

He expects half of the saplings to die with many eaten by deer or rabbits.

But the remaining half, eventually, will make a diverse and natural-appearing forest.

“Twenty years from now, it should look really nice,” he said.

More patience was being demonstrated by Alexis Just, 9, and her mother Mindy. They’d been at it for nearly two hours and had planted 50 trees — half of their goal — and they intended to stick around until they reached triple figures.

A member of Centenary United Methodist Church, which supplied a nice group of volunteers, Alexis Just is worried about global warming. And her mother wanted to support her daughter’s desire to make a difference. “ I just wanted to plant trees so we could have more oxygen,” Alexis said.

“And more places for animals, too.” The little saplings won’t be emitting much oxygen or sequestering much carbon anytime soon. But that could change with time and growth.

“And maybe we’ll be back here next year planting more,” Mindy Just said.

“I’d be OK with that,” Alexis said.

So would Hagen.

“We start small, show that it can work,” he said, “and it may turn into something quite large.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Update for the Saturday, April 19th planting

The seedlings are in and waiting for planting. Everything is a go and the weather for the weekend looks great. Be CERTAIN to check your email before setting out to your preferred planting site just in case of an unlikely rain delay.

Don’t forget your list of things to bring:
  • Gloves if you need them
  • Shoes with traction on the bottom to prevent slipping (if we have had rain it might be a little muddy)
  • A spade (we’ll plant in groups, so one per every two planters is fine)
  • Plastic milk containers for watering trees as you plant, if you have them.
  • A beverage if you’ll need one … pop, juice, water.
  • A walking stick might be helpful on the uneven ground.
  • A clippers or hand pruner (if you have one) to trim long roots.
Remember there will be NO restroom facilities.

See the information for getting to the Good Counsel and North Mankato sites below.

When you arrive at either site you will be asked to sign-in with the time you arrive and sign out with the time when you leave so we can keep track of total volunteer hours for the purpose of future grants for planting. A volunteer at the site will have a sign-in sheet. Drummers Nursery has donated 15 prizes to be given out by random selection from the sign-in sheets so signing-in will make you eligible!

A master gardener will then instruct you as to correct planting procedures before you enter the planting site. See you Saturday the 19th!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

April 19th Planting Information

Planting sites are finalized. Directions are as follows for Saturday, April 19th, 8:00 to noon:

For the Good Counsel Site:
From North Riverfront drive just south of the Hwy 14 interchange turn onto Good Counsel Drive and go up the hill. As you make the curve to the right you will see a volunteer directing you to a parking location. The actual planting site will be directly behind the volunteer.
For the North Mankato Site:
Go to Upper North Mankato and find Howard Drive. Turn west on Howard Drive and proceed to North Mankato Fire Station #2 (1825 Howard Drive). Park in the parking lot and wait for the shuttle bus to take you to the planting site. For safety reasons, MNDOT will NOT permit anyone to stop along Hwy 14 to reach the planting site, so you must take the bus from the parking lot. When you are done planting the bus will shuttle you back to your car at the fire station.
When you arrive at either site you will be asked to sign-in with the time you arrive and sign out with the time when you leave so we can keep track of total volunteer hours for the purpose of future grants for planting. A volunteer at the site will have a sign-in sheet.

A master gardener will then instruct you as to correct planting procedures before you enter the planting site.

Bring with you:
  • Gloves if you need them
  • Shoes with traction on the bottom to prevent slipping
  • A spade
  • Plastic milk containers for watering trees as you plant, if you have them.
  • A beverage if you’ll need one… pop, juice, water.
If you have not yet responded to the following questions please do so now:
  1. Team leader contact name:
  2. Approximate number of planters in your group:
  3. Site for your group: (Either Good Counsel site or North Mankato Hwy 14 site)
  4. Approximate time that you would like to plant on Saturday: (Between 8:00 and noon)
  5. Will you be able to help with thistle control this summer? (Late July to walk the hill and cut off mature thistle before they go to seed)
Do any of you have first aid training? Would you be willing to handle scrapes or cuts that a planter might accidentally incur? Let me know so we might use your skills at one of the planting sites.

Please respond to Malda Farnham at 507-345-7339 or via email.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Million Tree Project FAQs

How much carbon do trees take in?

In the Northern Hemisphere each mature tree sequesters approximately 13 kilograms (28.66 pounds) of carbon per year.

As well as sequestering carbon, how else do trees save energy, protect the environment and create a positive economic benefit?

In an urban area trees reduce summer temps from 5 to 10 degrees, reduce the need for heating in the winter by slowing the winds, and increase overall real estate values by 3% to 6% (source: Plan B 3.0).

According to the March-April 2006 edition of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, one tree planted on the west side of a house returns per year: $34 in heating costs, $20 in cooling costs, $10 in storm water management, $8 in air quality improvement.

In Minneapolis, 200,000 trees return $24.9 million in energy savings alone. A mature tree after expenses subtracted (planting, pruning, removal, etc.) returns $79 per tree per year.

Will the Bend of the River Million Tree Project plant trees on private property?

In the future the Million Tree Project will provide planters for tree plantings on private property but not the trees themselves. The property owner must pay for the trees — currently the cost is about 50 cents per seedling. The Bend of the River Million Tree Project can order the seedlings and receive a bulk discount, plus provide the property owner with information about which types of trees to plant and how to care for them.

For larger areas, if the owner agrees to give the an environmental easement that protects the planting, then the Million Tree Project might consider paying for and planting the trees.

What kinds of trees will the Million Tree Project plant?

At present the project is planting only native hardwoods including but not limited to oak, maple, hackberry, cottonwood and basswood. Evergreens are not native with the exception of Juniper, which may be planted in small quantities.

What if I want to find out more about the Bend of the River Million Tree Project?

Contact Malda Farnham at 507-345-7339 or via email.