Give a tree, the gift of forestry

A donation to the U.S. Forest Service’s plant-a-tree program is one gift idea for someone who seems to have everything and loves the natural world.

For a minimum donation of $20, the giver receives a certificate on behalf of a person or family, and 10 seedlings are reserved to reforest a burned area in the San Juan National Forest.

It costs the Forest Service $2 per tree to collect the seeds, grow the seedlings in a nursery and plant the trees.

Donations are used to reforest areas, and plantings provide wildlife habitat, decrease soil erosion and help with spring snow retention, while also helping to sequester carbon and provide oxygen.

This year’s donations will go directly toward a reforestation project scheduled for spring 2015 in the area burned by the Missionary Ridge fire around Vallecito Reservoir.

“Some burned areas will reforest naturally on their own, but on southwest-facing slopes and harsher environments, regeneration may take centuries,” said Gretchen Fitzgerald, San Juan National Forest forester.

“We focus tree planting in areas where large-scale, stand-replacement fires have occurred outside of wilderness areas, and where there is virtually no probability that the area will reforest on its own in the next 50 to 100 years,” Fitzgerald added.

The U.S. Forest Service established the Plant-A-Tree Program in 1983 to allow donors to contribute money toward reforestation on National Forests to memorialize loved ones or commemorate births, weddings or special events, while helping to improve the environment.

Seedlings planted with the donations are not designated on the ground as a memorial or individually recognized but instead become part of the forest ecosystem.

Donations can be made with cash, check or credit card at San Juan National Forest offices.

Credit card donations can also be made over the phone, or checks can be mailed to San Juan National Forest plant-a-tree coordinator, 15 Burnett Court, Durango, CO 81301.

Checks should be made payable to USDA Forest Service, with “Plant-A-Tree, San Juan National Forest” noted in the memo portion of the check.

The program is considered a charitable donation by the IRS.

Requests may take a few days to process, and contributions cannot be refunded. The donor receives a personalized certificate to document the gift.