Commmunity Agriculture Alliance: ReTree Steamboat: Planting a tree near you

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— For the past two summers, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council has partnered with the Colorado State Forest Service, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., the city of Steamboat Springs and many other groups, businesses and volunteers to host ReTree Steamboat, a day when thousands of seedlings are planted in local forests to help combat the impact of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

ReTree Steamboat started out as ReTree Colorado in 2010 thanks to the efforts of Tristan Froelich, who applied for a $20,000 grant through National Geographic and Frito Lay with the lofty goal of planting 20,000 trees. More than 300 volunteers planted 14,000 trees that rainy day in June 2010, and a tradition was born.

In 2011, the event was renamed ReTree Steamboat to focus on local locations and smaller quantities. Organizers went for quality of survival over quantity of trees planted, and about 200 volunteers planted 4,000 trees on Emerald Mountain under sunny skies. Still no small feat, planting 4,000 trees takes an exhaustive effort by the partners and volunteers, with forestry consultation from local officials and the city, extensive fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and training crew leaders and volunteers on the best way to plant the seedlings for their optimum survival.

On top of all that, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council opted to grow the event and add a sustainability expo to the day, featuring vendors of local beetle-kill products, live music, demonstrations, arts and crafts for kids, and a buffet lunch for ReTree Steamboat volunteers.

ReTree Steamboat 2012 will keep the momentum growing. Plans are to expand the expo while continuing to emphasize the stewardship ingredient, encouraging groups to adopt a planting area for summer-long watering and monitoring this year, an element that wasn’t included in years past.

The focus begins now because trees need to be purchased during the winter. The seedlings always are DNA-specific to our local forests and grown at nearby tree farms. Donations are needed now, and we encourage folks to consider purchasing trees for thank-you gifts, businesses, employees and friends and family members. More information is at www.yvsc.org.

Colorado State Forest Service foresters and city officials will begin walking the area in early spring to scout possible planting sites, which this year include Emerald Mountain, Spring Creek and the Fish Creek area above Steamboat Boulevard. The best planting sites are recently deforested areas that are accessed easily and in shady drainages for optimum growth and natural watering. The community’s enthusiasm for reforesting these sites has been overwhelming and is a key factor in contributing to the event’s overall success. Groups involved include teams from local businesses of all sizes, community service groups such as the Boy Scouts and the Service Learning Institute and local and visiting families.

ReTree Steamboat 2012 is scheduled for June 9. As in previous years, the schedule for the day will include a morning planting and an afternoon barbecue with live music and the sustainability expo. We’re teaming up with Mainstreet Steamboat this year, so the expo also will include local artisans from the Farmers Market.

Sponsors are encouraged to book their slots now for this community event. Sponsor contributions go toward purchasing trees as well as equipment, event coordination, and volunteer appreciation.

For more information, contact Sarah Jones at sarah@yvsc.org or 303-388-6981 or Kim Kline at kim@yvsc.org or 970-846-9015.

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