Five Million Trees by 2031

Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources wants YOU … to plant trees! They’ll help you do it, too.

“People want to do good things,” says Haley Rhodes, Tree Planting Specialist for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, “We help them do it!”

DNR is bullish on trees. Working under the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE), and along with other organizations, it is working hard to achieve the ambitious statewide carbon mitigation objective set forth in “The Tree Solutions Now Act of 2021.”

Tree solutions? Carbon mitigation? You bet. The goal is to plant five million trees by 2031. DNR and MDE are keeping track.

“Five million is roughly one tree for every Marylander,” Haley comments. DNR recognizes that not every piece of land is equal to every other piece, which means that some acreage can add many, many trees, while others might be fully planted.

DNR will help homeowners build a better future in a yard, regardless of how small, or how large, it is. From $25 off a tree of $50 or more, coupons available on their website (print off as many as you like) for trees at participating nurseries, to large scale plantings covering many acres, there’s a plan and expertise to help you get it done. Planting five million trees is ambitious but the benefits to all of us will be immediate and long lasting.

For starters, the infamous carbon footprint for all Maryland will be significantly reduced. Trees are good at mitigating carbon. They “sequester carbon” by storing it inside, in those woody trunks and branches. Safely bound up in that wood, carbon is removed from the air, reducing its contribution to global warming. Five million trees will go a long, long way to helping Maryland reduce its carbon footprint.

But carbon storage is only one of many things’ trees do for us.

“Trees increase property values,” Haley comments, “but increased property values are far from the only benefit. Psychologists note that trees can improve mental health – even a view of a tree from a window shortens hospital stays – but trees can also lower energy bills, because the same tree can shade your house in the summer but let sunlight, and its heat, in during winter.” Those who have enjoyed “Forest Bathing” will agree with the positive mental health that trees can provide.

But people aren’t the only creatures that trees support, and the list of benefits to planet Earth just gets longer and longer.

“Trees can be an effective buffer for rivers and even people’s yards,” Haley notes. “Trees that line a stream bank can filter out pesticides and other threats to fish, while cooling the water, which helps fish and other aquatic creatures to survive.”

This is because the warmer the water is, the less oxygen it holds, and fish, etc., need oxygen just like we do. Want to save the Bay? Plant a tree or two right where it matters.

Like those silly commercials – ‘and that’s not all!!!’ Trees filter air pollution for every living creature. (Hurrah!) Trees also help fight invasive plants that can destroy property values and valuable farmland. (More hurrahs!)

“Canopy closure (which happens when trees shade out the land beneath) keeps many, many invasive plants from flourishing,” Haley remarks. “Invasive species plants can bring invasive insects, too, and all work to destroy the health of our environment.”

“In short,” Haley comments, “trees are what’s needed for us now, and for all future generations. We all need clean air and a healthy environment.”

Wow. Plant a tree. Plant a tree and tell DNR what a nice thing you’ve done for all of us. DNR is keeping track – be a part of that initiative. Kids and grandkids will sit under these trees feeling blessed and breathing much cleaner air. Worth it!

Do all trees count equally, or are there special trees we should focus on?

“Native trees are what we’re looking for,” Haley explains. “Native trees provide so very many positive benefits, all that we’ve noted already and more, because they so completely support our birds and other wildlife, while non-natives are very unlikely to do an equal job.”

Which is not to speak of diseases and pests that enter our state by virtue of non-native plants. Native trees make great habitat for native birds. Can’t tell a native tree from a martian tree? No problem. DNR stands at the ready to help.

“There’s a native tree alternative for every great non-native you like so much,” Haley said. “There are shade trees. Blooming trees. Trees with lacy appearance.”

If a non-native can do it, so can one of our natives – you just have to know what’s native and what’s not. Lots of help available!

Don’t know how to plant a tree? Have lots of acreage that just makes mowing a chore?

No problem. Talk to your local DNR, Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT), or Master Gardeners.

“We can help plant trees on public land,” Haley remarks, “but we’re not limited to public areas like schools and parks. We’ll help private landowners, too.”

Utilizing native trees garnered from many viable sources, DNR will help landowners with much acreage to plant many, many trees. There’s funding, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Private homes, perhaps with a “postage stamp” yard, can still benefit from this initiative. With a coupon for $25 off a tree, all will be honored by participating nurseries. DNR will help folks pick the right tree for the spot, and they’ll ensure it is sized right to avoid problems with power lines.

“The right tree for the right place,” Haley pronounces. “It’s critical to the long-term success.”

Then…There’s the dreaded question…What about the DEER?

“Deer,” Haley sighs. “Deer are a serious threat to our program.”

To combat the large, cloven hooved ruminants, DNR recommends using tree wraps up to five feet high. Hungry deer can destroy our best laid plans.

“Tree wraps work well,” she notes, “and we’ve found that planting clover around the trees can be good protection, because the deer will eat the clover and – often – leave the trees alone.” For best protection, DNR recommends tree wraps, deer fences, and clover. Nothing stops a hungry deer!  As we all know.

DNR is looking forward to working with homeowners. Together, let’s plant five million trees and improve life for all Marylanders. And future Marylanders.

Maureen Rice is a naturalist/gardener living in Talbot County. She is the author of “Not! Your Granny’s Garden.” Email to receive the blog straight to your inbox.

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