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Native Trees Go to Pennsylvania

This fall, Ecotone is delivering on a contract to supply 2,000 trees to the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership.  Perhaps stating the obvious, the goal of the partnership is to plant 10 Million Trees in Pennsylvania.  Why trees?  Why now?  And why Pennsylvania? The Partnership, spearheaded by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, is designed not only to put trees in the ground, but to raise awareness as it brings together national, state, and local agencies, conservation organizations, businesses, and community members in the collective effort for clean water, diverse habitat, improved human health, and climate resilience. 

Trees absorb pollution from the air and runoff from the land that goes into the streams, creeks, and rivers that drain into the Chesapeake Bay.  States in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are required to implement pollution-reducing measures on their Bay-bound tributaries by 2025 to meet federal total maximum daily load limits of nutrients and sediment.  That includes the land surrounding those tributaries, and planting trees in riparian zones and uplands is one of the best long-term practices for reducing pollution.

The Susquehanna River alone delivers almost half of all the Bay’s fresh water, and almost all of the Susquehanna River watershed, the Bay’s largest sub-watershed, lies in Pennsylvania. While more than half of Pennsylvania is forested, several hot spots of urban, suburban, and agricultural land use are responsible for the majority of the state’s nutrient and sediment loads.  As the partnership works to plant trees in these areas, nutrients and sediment will stay on farmland where it can help grow food. Water and carbon will be absorbed and stored to reduce flooding in extreme weather events and protect and mitigate against the effects of climate change.  The presence of trees in urban areas can also boost your mood, reduce crime rates, and increase property values.

Garrett holding a sandbar willow cutting sprouting roots

Ecotone’s philosophy of using nature to restore nature aligns perfectly with the goals of the partnership. This is brought to life through the work of our Forest Hill, Maryland wholesale native plant and tree nursery.  Nursery sales manager Cara Mattlin and nursery manager Garrett Krug oversee the production, sales, and distribution of the thousands of plants used in restoration practices around the region and do so with an eye towards conservation.  Ray Kimball, Ecotone’s Reforestation Specialist, highlights the “willow trench” located on a slope below the potted tree growing area.  The trench is designed to capture any runoff from the growing area while it provides cutting stock of black willow and sandbar willow, two species adapted to growing in wet conditions, and species in which Ecotone specializes. 

Some of these cuttings are nurtured into young, rooted trees of various sizes, and others are used for live stakes: fresh cuttings that have yet to grow roots but do so easily once “staked” in streamside banks and conservation landscapes.  Black willow, sandbar willow, and pussy willow made up the variety of species delivered to the Partnership sites in eight different Pennsylvania counties. These species can grow in both wetlands and uplands and spread quickly even as they are grazed by wildlife like deer and beaver, making them ideal vegetation for stream restoration.  Eric Livelsberger, the 10 Million Trees Partnership Logistics Manager faced with the daunting task of coordinating the placement of (up to this point) hundreds of thousands of trees in niche locations across the state said that Ecotone’s “deliveries were prompt and communication was on point, a huge factor with the sheer amount of plants that were distributed,” and that those partners were excited to use the willow trees in their projects.

In late September, Ecotone was lucky enough to join CBF and members of the partnership including the York County Conservation District, Penn State Master Watershed Stewards, Horn Farm, The York Water Company, and others, for a day of canoeing on Lake Redman in York County, Pennsylvania in a celebration of our collective work and as a part of York Watershed Week. Ecotone is proud to be chosen to supply trees and shrubs to the partnership and hopes to continue to participate in a larger way in the future as the capacity of our nursery grows. 

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