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By Ann Bond
Special to The SUN
A donation to the U.S. Forest Service Plant-a-Tree Program is a great holiday gift idea for that special person who has everything and loves the natural world. For a minimum donation of $10, the giver receives a certificate on behalf of a person or family, and five seedlings are reserved to reforest a burned area on the San Juan National Forest. It costs the Forest Service about $2 per tree to grow seedlings in a nursery and plant the trees.
Plant-A-Tree donations are used to reforest areas where fires or other natural disturbance events have damaged forests. Ongoing reforestation projects on the San Juan are focused in spruce or ponderosa pine forests burned by large fires, including Missionary Ridge, Vallecito area, and Narraguinup area near Dolores. Reforesting provides future habitat for Canadian lynx, boreal owl, Abert’s squirrel and Merriam’s turkey. Tree planting also decreases soil erosion, helps with snow retention in spring and helps to sequester carbon and provide oxygen.
“Some burned areas will reforest naturally through aspen or natural conifer regeneration, but on southeast to southwest facing slopes and harsher environments, regeneration may take centuries,” said Gretchen Fitzgerald, San Juan National Forest forester. “We focus tree planting in areas where large-scale stand replacement fires have occurred outside of Wilderness areas, and where there is virtually no probability that the area will reforest on its own in the next 50-100 years.”
Donations by cash, check or credit card can be made in person at San Juan National Forest offices. Credit card donations can also be made over the phone. Checks can also be mailed to San Juan National Forest Plant-A-Tree Coordinator, 15 Burnett Court, Durango, CO 81301. Checks should be made payable to USDA Forest Service, with “Plant-A-Tree, San Juan National Forest” noted in the memo portion of the check. The program is considered a charitable donation by the IRS. Requests may take a few days to process, and contributions cannot be refunded. The donor receives a personalized certificate suitable for framing to document the gift.
The U.S. Forest Service established the Plant-A-Tree Program in 1983 to allow donors to contribute money toward tree planting on National Forests to memorialize loved ones or commemorate births, weddings or special events, while helping to improve the environment. Seedlings planted with the donations are not designated on the ground as a memorial or individually recognized, but instead become part of the forest ecosystem.
For more information, visit the San Juan National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan, or contact Gretchen Fitzgerald, Columbine Ranger District Forester, 884-1435, firstname.lastname@example.org.