Global Releaf, an international citizen action and education program, was initiated in 1988 by the 115-year-old American Forestry Association in response to the worldwide concern over global warming and the greenhouse effect . Campaigning under the slogan "Plant a tree, cool the globe," its over 112,000 members began the effort to reforest the earth one tree at a time.
In 1990, Global Releaf began Global Releaf Forest, an effort to restore damaged habitat on public lands through tree plantings Global Releaf Fund is its urban counterpart. Using each one-dollar donation to plant one tree resulted in the planting of more than four million trees on 70 sites in 33 states. By involving local citizens and resource experts in each project, the program ensures that the right species are planted in the right place at the right time. Results include the protection of endangered and threatened animals, restoration of native species, and improvement of recreational opportunities.
Funding for the program has come largely from government agencies, corporations, and non-profit organizations. Chevrolet-Geo celebrated the planting of its millionth tree in October 1996. The Texaco/Global Releaf Urban Tree Initiative, utilizing more than 6,000 Texaco volunteers, has helped local groups plant more than 18,000 large trees and invested over $2.5 million in projects in twelve cities. Outfitter Eddie Bauer began an "Add a Dollar, Plant a Tree" program to fund eight Global Releaf Forest sites in the United States and Canada, planting close to 350,000 trees.
The Global Releaf Fund also helps finance urban and rural reforestation on foreign soil in projects undertaken with its international partners. Engine manufacturer, Briggs & Stratton, for example, has made possible tree plantings both in the United States and in Ecuador, England, Germany, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, and Ukraine, while Costa Rica, Gambia, and the Philippines have benefitted from picture-frame manufacturer Larsen-Juhl.
Unfortunately, not enough funding exists to grant all the requests; in 1996, only 40% of the proposed projects received financial backing. Forced to pick and choose, the review board favors those projects which aim to protect endangered and threatened species. Burned forests and natural disaster areas—like the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina, devastated by 1989's Hurricane Hugo—are also high on the priority list, as are streamside woodlands and landfills.
Looking to the future, Global Releaf 2000 was launched in 1996 with the aim of encouraging the planting of 20 million trees, increasing the canopy in select cities by 20%, and expanding the program to include private lands and sanitary landfills. A 20-city survey done in 1985 by American Forests showed that four trees die for every one planted in United States cities and that the average city tree lives only 32 years (just seven years, downtown). With these facts in mind, Global Releaf asks that communities plant twice as many trees as are lost in the next decade. In August of 2001, more than 19 million trees had been planted.
[Ellen Link ]
Sobel K. L., S. Orrick, and R. Honig. Environmental Profiles: A Global Guide to Projects and People. New York: Garland, 1993.
"Global Releaf 2000." American Forests 103, no. 4 (Autumn 1996): 30.
"A Helping Hand for Damaged Land." American Forests 102, no. 3 (Summer 1996): 33–35.
"Planting One for the Millennium." American Forests 102, no. 3 (Summer 1996): 13–15.