Cross-sector collaborations help ensure that this high-impact work is carried out with urgency and awareness. Through our Wildfire Restoration Collaborative, eight of our major corporate partners have committed to help drive awareness and action around wildfire recovery.
There’s no doubt that extreme weather events are taking a toll on forests around the globe. Most recently, the western United States has witnessed yet another record-breaking year of wildfires. In early October, California reached the threshold of 4 million acres burned — a number that Cal Fire described as “unfathomable.” Fires in other western states such as Oregon, Washington and Colorado demonstrate that this year’s fire season is no anomaly. It’s the new norm that we must prepare for.
Recent fires have burned longer and hotter than usual, yielding two dangerous results. These historic fires often destroy tree seed source, preventing or slowing healthy forest regeneration. What’s left behind is mostly brush and grass — effectively, fuel for the next megafire.
As with any disaster, the immediate priority is to stop the spread of the fire; and provide food, water and shelter to people displaced by a wildfire. But following emergency response, we must work toward recovering and building resilience in the long term. Though they may seem removed from our daily lives, we rely on well-functioning forest ecosystems to clean our air and critical water sources, to provide a home for dwindling wildlife species, and to support local economies. Restoration ensures our continued access to the very necessities of life.
At the Arbor Day Foundation, we are working with some of the world’s largest and most well-known companies to lead this important work. With the launch of our Wildfire Restoration Collaborative, eight of our corporate partners — AT&T, Facebook, FedEx, HP, Mary Kay, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and Target — committed to help the Foundation drive awareness and action around wildfire recovery. With an initial focus on California, these partners are replanting 8,000 acres in the burn scars of the 2018 Carr and Camp Fires. Future projects are slated for Australia and Canada, as well as other affected forests across the US.
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These corporate leaders offer more than just financial support. Wildfire restoration is a long-term process — with damage assessment, seedling grow-outs, and of course tree planting — requiring a commitment of several years. Even once seedlings are in the ground, our local planting partners must continue to monitor and manage the forests to promote healthy regeneration.
It would be easy to put such a long-term project on the back burner, but major brands can help remind their peers, consumers and employees that restoration work is important and deserves our attention. For example, Procter & Gamble’s Family Care products — Bounty, Charmin and Puffs — were the first brands to sign on to the Wildfire Restoration Collaborative with a commitment to plant 300,000 trees in California. This initiative opened the door for other leading companies to sign on, and demonstrated the urgency of wildfire recovery to millions of consumers who purchase the brands’ goods each day.
Of course, trees are also an important part of our partners’ sustainability strategies. In addition to acting as an effective and cost-efficient technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere, healthy forests are an investment in thriving communities. For example, the two million trees we are planting in California will ensure safe sources of water for more than 900,000 people across eight counties in the state; and they will absorb more than 100 tons of air pollutants, helping to prevent chronic respiratory diseases so prevalent across the United States.
And restoration work actually builds more resilient forests, helping to prevent more of the uncontrolled fires that have become so common today. When we replant more fire-resilient species of trees — spaced and nurtured appropriately — and clear out brush and grass that act as fire-burning fuel, we can help prevent the next round of megafires.
When it comes to wildfire recovery, cross-sector collaborations help ensure that this high-impact work is carried out with urgency and awareness. To learn more about wildfire restoration efforts driven by our key corporate partners, visit www.arborday.org/wildfire.