League Lines: Planting Project Grows More Than Greenery

Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter Planting Trees

Maryland >> The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter planned to reforest what had been highly erodible, poor-quality farm land. With hard work and dedication, the chapter grew more than just trees.

In 2010, the chapter’s Forest Committee developed a 5-year plan to plant 5,000 trees across 18.2 acres of the chapter’s property. That plan involved not just digging 5,000 holes but also planning which species to plant, where to plant each tree, and how to protect the trees to ensure as many as possible reached maturity. In addition to controlling soil erosion, the chapter wanted to provide food for many different wildlife species — from wild turkey and cedar waxwing to deer and chipmunks — through as much of the year as possible.

All selected tree species were native to Maryland. Survival rates of some of the early trees informed later planting decisions. For example, "Oaks were featured due to their wildlife food value and because the surrounding woodlands of our farm are composed of oak and hickory," says Forest Committee Chairman Butch Mezick. "However, we had very poor success with the 300 hickories we planted (three different species of hickories), so we stopped trying to grow hickories." Persimmons, black cherry, elderberry, and staghorn sumac are examples of trees planted to produce a soft mast crop. Tree species were distributed in random order across the 18.2 acres so no area would have too many of the same species. Now that planting is completed, the chapter is focused on maintenance, including weeding between tree rows and inspecting tree guards.

In addition to improving soil quality and wildlife habitat, the project provided unexpected benefits. "Hundreds of our members and their families contributed their time and labor" to the project, Mezick reports. "The conservation awareness of this hands-on project touched the entire membership. Families that planted trees became stronger, as did their commitment to conservation. The leadership of the chapter provided multi-year financial support and hands-on participation. This project provided a tangible connection to nature and a conservation effort that will be everlasting, especially in the eyes of the children who worked to plant trees." He says that work crews were given easy to understand lessons about trees during work breaks, and lunches were provided after work days, bringing newer and older members together.

There may also be financial benefits from this project. The chapter entered the entire 18.2 acres into a Maryland state program called Forest Mitigation. "If an acceptable survival and maturity level is determined by a county inspector, the reforestation project will earn 18.2 credits in the Forest Mitigation Bank," says Mezick. "At the current sale price of $27,000 for each Forest Mitigation credit, this project has a gross potential earning of $491,400."