They Speak for the Trees

By Michelle Deininger

When TreeUtah prides itself on the carnival-like atmosphere that surrounds its tree planting events. Since forming in 1989, they’ve included music, food, extra tools and gear to share, and leaders who educate volunteers—often 50-100 people—about trees and climate issues.

“We ultimately are about getting trees in the ground to sequester carbon, and creating inclusive events so people can come and learn and grow along with the trees they help plant,” said TreeUtah Executive Director Amy May.

As one of Park City Community Foundation’s Climate Fund grantees this year, TreeUtah is now building on that legacy while adapting to 2020’s Covid restrictions (no food, no tool-sharing, masks, and smaller groups). It’s all for a good cause.

Park City is part of a coalition of mountain towns working together to aggressively reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by the year 2030. The capacity of trees to sequester carbon from the atmosphere as they grow makes tree planting an important process in the age of climate warming.

Using its $50,000 grant, TreeUtah has hosted educational community events throughout Summit County. In spring they planted 27 Narrowleaf Cottonwoods in East Canyon Creek, and “virtually” planted trees at schools with teachers working while students watched by video.

For Earth Day, they gave trees away, then supervised their planting in residential yards and park strips. And in a partnership with Park City High School, students helped plant 200 trees and woody perennials around campus in August. More projects are planned for fall.

“The grant has helped us connect with the community in a much broader way than we could have little by little,” May said. “It’s allowed us to prioritize plantings in Summit County.”

Just how much does planting trees help the climate? The exact amount of carbon sequestration per tree planted on earth varies by species, size, location, and other factors. The U.S. Forest Service uses this rule of thumb: Every mature tree cools the planet as much as 20 room-sized air conditioners every day.

Tree planting also adds to natural beauty, and connects residents to their environment as a living, breathing entity, May said. She is excited about TreeUtah’s growth, and urges community members to “get involved however you can, even if you don’t want to get that dirty. Do something meaningful!”

The Park City Climate Fund was established in 2019 to foster high-impact projects in greater Park City that have the potential to make a lasting impact here and have the ability to scale in other mountain communities. The first Climate Fund grants were awarded in February 2020 to Recycle Utah, TreeUtah, and Utah Clean Energy, and more will be coming soon.