On October 22, 2011, The Lands Council, a major non-profit environmental organization in the Inland Northwest, holds the first annual Reforest Spokane Day. As second-place winners in a nationwide online contest, The Lands Council is able to purchase 10,000 ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) seedlings that some 900 volunteers plant in a single day at numerous sites. Autumn is chosen for the planting project to ensure the best survival rates.
Ponderosa pines are the predominant native tree of Spokane area, thriving in the dry, rocky soil of a region extending from southern British Columbia to Mexico and from the Black Hills to the dry, eastern slopes of the Cascades. They were named by Scottish-born explorer and naturalist David Douglas (1799-1834), who found them growing plentifully along the Spokane River. The Latin word “ponderosa” refers to their ponderous bulk. Most of the lumber for the early construction of Spokane came from these majestic trees.
Many fine old ponderosas remain in Spokane, providing shade, absorbing surface water, improving air quality, muffling traffic noise, and offering habitat and edible seeds for birds and squirrels. Yet in certain parts of the city and surrounding region, these trees are gone because of logging, farming, or urban development. The Lands Council has adopted as one of its major environmental projects the need to reforest these barren tracts. Declares Amanda Swan, development director of The Lands Council: “For us, ponderosa pines are Spokane’s environmental mascot” (Kramer).
When Tom’s of Maine, a natural products firm, announced its “50 States for Good” challenge, The Lands Council entered the contest. The process involved daily online “voting” by thousands of participants for the project of their choice. Although the competition was stiff between many worthy causes throughout the country, The Lands Council marshaled community support and won the second-place prize of $20,000.
Plants of the Wild, of Tekoa, Washington, provided the 10,000 six- to eight-inch-tall seedlings, which can grow a foot a year and reach a height of 100 feet. On a Saturday that began sunny but cool, then by noon turned rainy, the 900 plus volunteers, armed with shovels, pick-axes, and pulaski tools, divided into 12 groups to replant the sites that TLC had selected with advice from Avista Utilities, the City of Spokane, Spokane Conservation District, and Greenstone Homes. The need for replenishing the ponderosas of the region is ongoing, and The Lands Council intends to make Reforest Spokane Day an annual event.