TRAVERSE CITY — A local nonprofit organization has a mission to reforest a large swath of northwest Lower Michigan and wants area residents to help.

Traverse City-based Conservation Resource Alliance is in its second year of its Wild Roots initiative, a pilot program that targets both public and private lands for tree plantings. Native tree plantings, that is.

“The actual goal of the program is to get 100,000 trees in the ground in 5 years,” said Kira Davis, the group’s program director.

The service area for the alliance includes all the watersheds that drain into Lake Michigan from Emmet to Mason counties and everywhere between. The goal is to focus these tree-planting efforts on environmental restoration sites, private lands and those managed by other nonprofit agencies, Davis said.

Amy Beyer, the alliance’s director, said planting trees is an ideal way to benefit the local environment in a big way.

“Beyond their immediate impact, trees are the most efficient and cost-effective method of carbon sequestration to date, and our best defense against a changing climate,” Beyer said. “From reducing runoff and flooding to filtering pollutants and providing shade and habitat to people, animals and our precious water bodies alike, trees play an integral role in each of our lives.”

Davis agreed planting trees is among the best ways to locally battle climate change.

“It’s probably the best thing you can do right now. It’s something very simple anyone can do,” she said.

Wild Roots is a cost-share program intended to allow landowners and area nonprofit groups to buy native trees as a highly reduced price because of grant funding. Participants will receive 100 bare-root seedlings in the spring should they place their orders by November’s end.

Six tree packages are available, two of each for riparian, upland and wildlife zones. Each costs $30 and will include 25 seedlings of four tree species.

Riparian packages include American crabapple, northern white cedar, white spruce and yellow birch, among others. Upland packages have balsam fir, sugar maple, white oak, black elderberry and more.

Finally, wildlife packages have species such as paper birch, American hazelnut and others meant to attract various types of birds and animals.

Davis said participants may be asked to provide data for about 3 years after the seedlings are planted, such as where they were planted, how well they grow and what type of watering and other care was required.

“It gives us the opportunity to see what species may prosper here as we see changes in temperatures and more extreme weather events,” she said.

Katie Grzesiak, coordinator at nonprofit Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network, said the alliance’s program to encourage the use of native plants is a fantastic way to support local natural resources. It’s an effort she endorses.

“In addition to being beautiful, native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers are specifically suited to the environment of northwest Lower Michigan — they need less watering and weather the cold winters well,” she said.

“Wildlife love native plants too; in particular, native trees provide a home and food for hundreds of species of pollinators, butterflies and moths, which in turn feed baby birds, hungry bats and the frogs that sing on spring and summer nights,” Grzesiak said.

The Wild Roots program is financially supported by grant dollars from the Consumers Energy Foundation, Huron-Manistee National Forests and a federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, among others.

Tree orders can be placed online at www.rivercare.org/wildroots or on the phone by calling 231-946-6817. Trees will be ready for pickup in late April next year.

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