Tree planting event growing |

Tree planting event growing

Organizer hopes volunteers will plant 20,000 trees June 26

Mike Lawrence

Tristan Frolich, who won a $20,000 award last summer to plant 20,000 trees in Routt County, has set a June 26 date for a communitywide event, which he hopes will attract as many as 400 volunteers.

— Like the 12,000 trees he bought from the state forest service, Tristan Frolich's idea to help Routt County forests recover from the bark beetle epidemic just keeps growing.

Frolich is the organizer of Re-tree Colorado, an event planned for June 26 in which he hopes as many as 400 volunteers will plant 20,000 trees at sites across the county. He's envisioning a daylong event including a morning information session with foresters and several hours of tree planting followed by food, relaxation and maybe even live music at a to-be-determined site.

The idea for the event began in the summer, when Frolich attended a tree-planting event at Steamboat Lake State Park and then entered the Green Effect contest, a collaboration between SunChips and National Geographic. The contest awarded grants to five recipients who created environmentally friendly projects that would affect their local communities. Frolich was one of those five and received a $20,000 grant for Re-tree Colorado.

"When I entered the competition, I didn't have any thought that I could win," he said Wednesday. "I thought it'd be cool to get some exposure to what's going on … after that, it just kept on growing."

Frolich used much of the $20,000 to buy 12,000 trees from a Colorado State Forest Service nursery in Fort Collins. The U.S. Forest Service has donated 2,000 more, he said, for a total of 14,000 trees, primarily lodgepole pine and some Colorado blue spruce. He is waiting for more volunteers and, he hopes, more donations before acquiring the remaining 6,000 trees.

Local groups including the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Asso­ciation have signed on to help with the event. Frolich is meeting with Steamboat Ski and Re­­sort Corp. officials next week.

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"It really is something we wanted to get behind and support," Chamber spokeswoman Molly Killien said about Re-tree Colorado. "He has definitely taken on a huge project."

Anyone hiking through local forests can see there's a huge need.

The Rocky Mountain West has seen its forests damaged by the mountain pine beetle epidemic in recent years. Aerial research conducted in 2008 by the U.S. and Colorado forest services showed 245,000 affected acres in Routt County. Those are among the 1.9 million affected acres in Colorado.

Frolich, 26, moved to Steamboat Springs four years ago, after college in California. He's a home energy rater who also works at Steamboat Ski Area, Howelsen Hill and Cugino's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant. He said a large goal of Re-tree Colorado is to raise awareness with a multigenerational event that he said could help children "take more of an ownership of their own forest."

District forester John Twitchell said the state forest service is working with Frolich, as well, to revive local forests with a new generation of trees.

"The pine beetle epidemic is pretty much over in this area — the mountain pine beetle has killed a lot of our mature lodgepole pine," Twitchell said. "You're not seeing these clouds of beetles descending on people's trees and killing them."

Frolich and Twitchell said they often are asked about the benefit of planting more lodgepole pines when the beetles simply could return and feast. Twitchell noted that lodgepole pines have thrived in this ecosystem for 11,000 years and that planting native trees and raising awareness of forest health is beneficial all around. He added that even if the next epidemic begins tomorrow, beetles focus on older, larger trees.

"The kind of trees we'll be planting would not conceivably be at risk until 20, 30, 40 years down the road," Twitchell said. "We'll get a lot of natural regeneration anyway, but this planting will give us a bump. We're all working with (Frolich) to make that happen."

Frolich said his biggest need right now is volunteers. Those who want to get involved can e-mail him at

"It's kind of goosebumpy when you think about it," Killien said. "He is showing how through grass-roots work and by being involved, you really can be empowered and able to take ownership of our forests."

To help

Tristan Frolich, organizer of the Re-Tree Colorado event planned for June 26, said a Re-Tree Colorado Web site is under construction. Until then, volunteers who want to help, sign up, or get involved can e-mail Frolich at