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Strategic Tree Planting

by Michele E.

I have been fortunate to live and work in several rural communities during my 24 years working for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). As staffing declined in the Flagler Field Office over the years, it was a challenge to accomplish all the things we wanted to do.

Eastern Colorado experiences blizzard conditions every winter. Living snow fences are tree plantings strategically planned to provide protection along roadways by capturing wind driven snow, keeping snow and ice from creating driving hazards. In my career, I have coordinated or participated in 36 living snow fence plantings.

Obtaining funds to purchase trees and fabric mulch is always a challenge, but utilizing volunteer community groups, such as the local chapters of Future Farmers of America, Girl and Boy Scouts of America, National Honor Society members, Pheasants Forever, Conservation District Board members, church groups, landowners, and neighbors, to help plant the trees has been the most rewarding aspect of this activity.

Most of the plantings span 6 to 20 years, creating a scenic, long term benefit for residents and travelers. Even more lasting are the memories these youth have of being involved in a beneficial project for their community as they learn about conservation and the difference anyone can make when they get involved.

I have made it a point to include conservation education in all of our volunteer activities. As an Earth Team Volunteer myself, I have served as a merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts of America, instructing for the Soil and Water Conservation merit badge since 1989, teaching about land stewardship and wildlife habitat to the annual High Plains District Camporee. This camporee draws from the entire Pikes Peak Council with an average of up to 300 scouts attending.  

My own family is not immune to the volunteer bug! My husband is working on repairing a living snow fence sign that blew down in a blizzard, and his help with a shovel is always useful!  As my children grew, they worked along side me and other scouts, helping to hand out staples, and serving as ‘runners’ back and forth to the truck to supply us with trees as we planted replacements and performed maintenance. They were ‘unofficial’ volunteers just having fun being outside. Now that two of them are 15 and 17, they are perfectly trained for the Earth Team program. Volunteering “grows good kids!”

Even my 73 year old mother has spent time filing in my office, and she loved being able to help.  A volunteer is who I am, and I want you to join me! There’s no better feeling than to fill a need, create a memory, get some exercise, and do something good for the earth. Join the Earth Team!

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