Oak tree in plastic shelter.
At Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, a plastic shelter protects this young oak during its crucial first years.” Credit: USFWS

Second season oak trees in plastic shelters.
Go to The Conservation Fund’s online Go Zero calculator to find out how many trees you would need to plant to offset your household’s carbon footprint.

The Power of Planting Trees

In April 2010 the Conservation Fund celebrated the planting of one million trees as part of its national Go Zero® program, designed to help individuals, corporations and companies reduce and offset their carbon dioxide emissions.

Many trees have been donated and planted at national wildlife refuges by participants in the Go Zero program to offset their carbon footprint. Nearly 5,000 trees have been planted at Rappahannock River Valley and E.B. Forsythe national wildlife refuges since 2007.

“These trees literally have a job to do over their lifetime,” said Go Zero Director Jena Meredith. They are at work sequestering greenhouse gases. Meredith expects that over the next 100 years the trees planted at the two refuges will absorb about 2,500 short tons of Co2e, a carbon dioxide equivalent.

In 2007, Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia received and planted 3,900 tree seedlings reforesting nine acres of former agricultural land.  

Refuge Manager Joe McCauley credits Go Zero for enabling the refuge to complete the project.  “Having a partner that stepped up to the plate was extremely important and much appreciated,” he said.

That same year, Go Zero contributed 981 trees to E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Thanks to the program Refuge Biologist Kevin Holcomb said “we planted a mixture of pitch pine, white oak, chestnut oak, short leaf pine, mockernut hickory, and pignut hickory to create important woodland habitat for wildlife. Three years later, the young trees are thriving.”

According to Meredith,The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gets to pick all the species. We work to make sure the stocking rate and species are a good fit for the long term goals of the refuge. It’s a big deal because these trees have to carry a 100 year carbon promise.”

Meredith said that The Conservation Fund started working with the Service on carbon sequestration back in 1999 “before Go Zero was even a glimmer in somebody’s eye.” The original partnership focused on carbon offsets contributed by larger utility corporations. Go Zero was born out of the need to expand the breadth of the program.

“We launched Go Zero,” she said, “with the idea that we would market to individuals that wouldn’t put themselves in the carbon emitter category, but who really wanted to make a difference and who understood the power of planting a tree.”

Story by Intern Michael Gardner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region, Office of External Affairs


Missouri's Mingo National Wildlife Refuge is getting a big boost toward its habitat restoration goals with the donation of more than 100,000 native trees. The event marks a milestone for The Conservation Fund's voluntary carbon offset program, Go Zero® - the planting of its one millionth tree. Partners will restore 367 acres of walnut, hickory, oak and cypress trees. As the forest matures, it is expected to trap an estimated 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere.

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