EPA Registry to Record Trees Planted in Celebration of Earth Day

[EPA press release - February 5, 1990]

Long after 1990 becomes history, there will be a record of how many trees were planted in this year's celebration of Earth Day, thanks to a registry of tree-plantings being kept by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Registry forms are being circulated by EPA to any person or organization wishing to plant trees to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the original Earth Day, the April 1970 event that led to the creation of EPA and the subsequent enactment of the federal, state and local pollution control laws that today protect the nation's environment and help safeguard the health of the American people.

Members of the public can obtain copies of the tree registry form from Pete Bentely, U.S. EPA, 841 Chestnut Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

EPA is undertaking the tree registry effort as an official EPA Earth Day project at the suggestion of Rachel M. Hopp, a lawyer at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Hopp learned first-hand the value of tree planting more than two decades ago when she participated in reforestation projects in Mexico and Colombia where her father was the U.S. agricultural attache.

"My father would organize groups of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides to build a grove of trees in a matter of hours," Hopp recalled. "I last saw the trees in Mexico on a visit in 1986. They weren't seedlings anymore. They were a small forest.

"When EPA began making plans for Earth Day this year, I remembered the work my father had done, and realized this would be a wonderful way for people everywhere to make a positive contribution and show their concern for the environment."

Hopp and her assistant--Michigan State University student Hillary Wray--report that tree planting projects are underway by a large number of environmental groups and other organizations, such as the American Forestry Association which last year began a world-wide reforestation program called "Global ReLeaf." Another group, "Earth Day 1990," has already set a goal of planting 1 billion trees this year.

When people submit their EPA tree registry forms, EPA will use the forms to set up tree-planting "networks" to make registrants aware of other projects, with the hope that the tree-planters will choose to combine their resources. EPA, because of its access to aerial photographs showing where serious deforestation has occurred over the last half century, will be in a position to suggest areas to the tree-planters where their work would be most needed.

In addition to using the registry forms to notify EPA of their intention to plant trees, Hopp said, people can also register their plans to adopt trees already standing. Adopt-a-tree projects can help protect trees vulnerable to vandalism, to unnecessary or avoidable destruction, or to diseases such as the Dutch Elm blight that decimated hundreds of thousands of leafy trees in the Midwest 20 years ago.

"Once our tree-registry project becomes known to the public, EPA hopes individual citizens will sign up with pledges to plant trees in either their yards or neighborhoods," Hopp said. "A lot of people want to do something to help the environment, although they might not know exactly what to do or they simply don't have much spare time.

"Planting a dozen trees, or even a single tree, takes only a few minutes, but the environmental benefits are enormous. The trees will stand for decades as a measure of a person's environmental concern."

Since different species of trees must be planted in different seasons, Hopp said, EPA will keep records of all trees planted during the year, not just those planted on April 22, the 20th anniversary of Earth Day.

The environmental benefits of trees include the mitigation of global warming caused by emissions of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels. By some estimates, it is necessary to plant 3 billion acres of trees each year to offset the net effect of the estimated 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide and the number of trees cut annually that would otherwise help to absorb those emissions.

Also, trees help prevent soil erosion. They provide habitat for wildlife. They reduce air pollution from particulate matter. There are energy savings, too: shade trees--because they can cool off homes in the summer--can decrease the demand for the electricity needed to operate air conditioning equipment.