Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West

by Trees Water & People
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Support Reforestation Across the Indigenous West
Seedlings in the greenhouse.
Seedlings in the greenhouse.

Winter is a quiet time of year for communities working on reforestation initiatives, including our partners at Santo Domingo Pueblo and the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, but winter is a critical time for our nursery partners and the baby seedlings that will be planted in the coming months. Tree planting is both a culmination and a beginning – it is the culmination of a nearly year-long process of growing baby seedlings and the beginning of their adaptation into the natural environment.

Reforestation begins with a seed, unlike the species many of us grow in our gardens, conifer seed ideally needs to be local, collected from the area where trees will eventually be planted out. To complicate matters, Ponderosa Pine, one of the primary species we plant, only puts on a significant seed crop every 8 to 10 years so robust collection efforts are vital.   

Once our nursery partners, primarily the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery in Fort Collins, CO and the John. T. Harrington Forestry Research Center in Mora, NM, have the needed seed and TWP knows our target planting numbers the seeds need to go through a stratification process before planting in containers. Stratification is the process of simulating natural conditions to break dormancy and kickstart germination. Once seedlings have come up, the nursery works hard to provide ideal growing conditions including temperature, water, and nutrients. Metrics such as root development and above ground growth indicate when trees are ready to leave the nursery. In order to avoid shocking the baby trees during out planting, a couple months prior the nursery begins to dial back the ideal conditions and move the trees to an environment more like those they will face in nature, this process is known as hardening off and is critical to seedling success.

We are grateful for the work of our partner nurseries for providing the seedlings the essential early care to ensure they are ready to be planted and benefit our partners and the natural world. 

We are also extremely thankful to donors like you, without your kindness and generosity we could not support our partners and do this important work. We hope you see your contributions the way we do, as seeds planted and full of promise.

Seedlings ready for planting.
Seedlings ready for planting.

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3 generations of Calabaza family planting trees
3 generations of Calabaza family planting trees

On August 30th, 2021, Trees Water & People (TWP) delivered 4,500 Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine seedlings to the Santo Domingo Pueblo greenhouse as part of our collective effort to restore Santo Domingo homelands disturbed by wildfires over the last two decades. The trees were planted in the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico by two Pueblos that have been stewards of those lands for millennia. Santo Domingo Pueblo kicked off the season by using tree planting as an opportunity to transfer intergenerational knowledge, language, and cultural storytelling. 

Meanwhile, the Jemez Pueblo also added more opportunities to provide technical training support for their forestry staff, improve seedling monitoring strategies, and collaborate with non-Tribal NGOs focused on forest health to strengthen their community ties.

The planting is ongoing, with Santo Domingo Natural Resources (SDNR) staff and community members planting roughly ~600 seedlings each day of project activity on several burn scars around the Cerrito Yello Peak area from the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire. With the support of the Warchief and SDNR staff, the project has focused heavily on the importance of cultural-based stewardship and language. Each day of planting activities, elders join and provide traditional oral wisdom and storytelling to participating adults and youth. 

TWP’s National Director and Marketing Manager had the privilege to join the community on the first day of planting, providing support and listening to why Indigenous-led restoration efforts are essential to heal the land and preserve the lifeways of the Pueblo peoples. 

We are also testing out new monitoring methods to boost regional survival rates, using water-retaining polymers and shelters as part of this project. Working with the SDNR team, TWP set up micro-sites to monitor seedlings 3-months and 6-months post-planting. These monitoring techniques will give TWP and SDNR data to support larger landscape restoration projects and build cultural resilience in the wake of hotter, drier conditions due to climate change.

We are thrilled to support the Pueblo’s climate resilience and regeneration efforts, and we thank you for believing in the power of bringing local people together to manage their own resources.

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Photo by Evan Barrientos Photography
Photo by Evan Barrientos Photography

Planting trees is about more than just planting trees.

We hear this frequently from our partners. On Lakota Tribal Lands, planting trees is done with great care, intention, and gratitude. When asked about what makes Pine Ridge a special place for him, Chief Henry Red Cloud told us it was the beautiful country, the rolling hills and the animals. “It’s all here,” he mentioned as he spoke on the importance of honoring trees as relatives.

After a year of managing the COVID-19 pandemic in their community, the Oglala Sioux Tribe was excited to join us and Red Cloud Renewable (RCR) last month by sending out a group of hard-working tree planters to join our spring planting. Thanks to all of the tree planters being vaccinated, TWP staff (who were also vaccinated) were able to join for the first time since 2019’s planting season to reconnect with old friends and meet new people. For five days, we planted trees alongside Lakota community members and visited former planting sites where we observed many healthy and robust ponderosa trees that were planted 5+ years ago. 

For many in the tree planting crew, the spring planting season presented a valuable opportunity to earn income, feel empowered and reconnect with others in the community after a long year of uncertainty and scarcity. Each day started bright and early with freshly made coffee and a hearty breakfast. During meals and between activities, the hired cook that supported the project, Tink, shared stories with us and the other tree planters about her time at Standing Rock supporting the NODAPL camp. Her son Ladon would run around the Sacred Earth Lodge at RCR with a big grin and greet us all in the morning and be there in the afternoon after returning from tree planting. For the first time in a long time, we felt deeply connected to our partner community. We felt incredibly grateful to join forces with this group of generous, resilient, and hard-working people. 

While in Pine Ridge, we also began filming the long-awaited short documentary about our reforestation efforts, thanks to another funding sponsor. As a GlobalGiving supporter of TWP, we want you to be among the first to gain exclusive access to this video content later this summer!

In New Mexico, our National Program staff are currently meeting with the Tri-Pueblo Coalition to finalize timelines and logistics for tree planting in the Jemez Mountains in the coming months. Tree planting in New Mexico will also be a unique opportunity as we enter our third year of partnership with Santo Domingo Pueblo and the second year with Cochiti and Jemez Pueblos. So many exciting things are on the horizon, and we can not wait to share more stories directly from our partners to you.

Thank you for believing in and supporting Indigenous-led projects! 

Photo by Evan Barrientos Photography
Photo by Evan Barrientos Photography
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Planting on Jemez Tribal Lands, August 2020
Planting on Jemez Tribal Lands, August 2020

With 2020 behind us, we have eagerly welcomed the opportunity to begin planning for spring/summer tree planting later this year.

The first thing on our agenda is tree planting with Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico this spring, which was postponed in the fall of last year due to COVID. As we look forward to this collaboration with the Pueblo in mid-April (weather permitting), the timing of this will also help us compare the benefits and drawbacks of tree planting in the spring vs. fall. Nevertheless, tree planting in Pine Ridge will continue as usual this year in May. This will include 26,000 trees ranging from our usual ponderosa pines, more cottonwoods, fruit-bearing trees, and we will be planting coyote willows, another culturally important species for the Lakota.

We will heavily prioritize mapping out planting sites ahead of tree planting to assess ecological needs, and to help us implement stronger monitoring and evaluation protocols ahead of time. Together with Red Cloud Renewable, we are looking to increase the number of local paid laborers due to the greater number of seedlings that we will be planting. Finally, we are excited to be welcoming an additional Project Coordinator to the TWP staff to further assist us with GIS mapping, and to increase our overall capacity as our tribal reforestation programs continue to grow.

In Santa Fe, NM, the Douglas fir seedlings we dropped off in August last year were sent to students of different tribes across the Southwest in NM and Arizona. Among the tribes represented were the Navajo, Apache, and various Pueblos across NM. Each student from this Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS) sponsored program received two trees each. Science staff at SFIS also received two trees each, and 10 trees were planted on the SFIS campus itself. During these times of remote learning, environmental stewardship and connection to the land can be especially difficult. But thanks to your support, the SFIS is helping young Natives reconnect to their natural world. By planting trees on Indigenous lands, we can support the health of our environment and rehabilitate both the human spirit and the land. 

Stay tuned in the spring for more photos, video testimonials, and more as tree planting begins! And, as always, we thank you for your continued support.

Douglas fir seedling on Jemez tribal lands
Douglas fir seedling on Jemez tribal lands
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Your support has funded the planting of 24,000 mixed conifers in the centuries-old Pueblos of Kewa, Cochiti, and Jemez in New Mexico this year. We planted 13,000 trees in the area in 2019 and are expanding in 2020-21 while increasing indigenous-operated tree nurseries' capacity, providing robust in-field/remote training, and creating seasonal employment opportunities.

In early August, Kewa Pueblo assembled a strong team of planting volunteers spanning generations and finished planting their 8,000 trees in only 5 days. New Mexico saw record high temperatures and long dry spells this summer, which made soil conditions rough, and the planting sites were often difficult to access due to runoff from the times it did rain. Our National Program Coordinator, James Calabaza, spent 2 weeks in New Mexico with Kewa and Jemez planting crews to provide technical support and lay the groundwork for future mapping and monitoring of the seedlings.

A second caravan from TWP departed later that month with roughly 1,000 seedlings to deliver to the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS). Native students from across the state engaged in remote learning through the SFIS will be planting these seedlings near their homes. Jemez Pueblo began planting their seedlings shortly after this in a burn scar on their Tribal boundaries. The climate was dry, and planting conditions were acceptable, but shortly after completing our first day of planting, the skies darkened, and a heavy rain lasted for almost an hour. The Pueblo of Jemez Forestry crew continued planting for another few days and finished their planting in late September. Due to COVID-19, Cochiti Pueblo will begin planting their seedlings in the Spring of 2021, but the seedlings are being cared for by the Colorado State Forest Nursery in the meantime.

“For indigenous people in New Mexico, planting trees is more than just planting trees. Planting Douglas Fir is about restoring natural lands burned by wildfires and regenerating important cultural traditions for future generations.” - Derwin, Pueblo of Jemez Forestry


At TWP, your donations directly support tribal led forest management like Derwin is a part of because this is what it looks like to help people and the planet. We are continuing to move forward with the Tri-Pueblo through the early stages of next year’s planting season and developing robust monitoring programs and protocols to assess and analyze tree survival. Please stay on the lookout for more information on this and other updates on our reforestation projects!

Thank you for supporting Tribal-led reforestation.

Derwin, Pueblo of Jemez Forestry digging a hole
Derwin, Pueblo of Jemez Forestry digging a hole
Loading trees at Colorado State Forest Nursery
Loading trees at Colorado State Forest Nursery
Drop-off at Santa Fe Indian School greenhouse
Drop-off at Santa Fe Indian School greenhouse
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Trees Water & People

Location: Fort Collins, Colorado - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @treeswater
Project Leader:
Emily Swartz
Fort Collins, Colorado United States
$29,680 raised of $40,000 goal
 
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