April 20, 2016|By James Rogers

Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree, was a staple for many children growing up. For those of you not familiar with the story, it follows the life of a young boy and his relationship with an apple tree. In childhood, the boy enjoys playing on the tree and eating the apples but as the boy grows up, he begins to make requests to the tree. The tree is always happy to give, whether it is apples, branches or finally the entire trunk of the tree. At the end of the book, the boy is an old man and just wants “a quiet place to sit and rest;” with only the remaining stump, the tree can happily provide a solution.

03-09-2016 Sustainability Field Trip Garcia River Forest James Rogers Carol Shu Rachel bruton Back Yard Hoodie 613Garcia River Forest is a working forest. The Conservation Fund bought it to protect it from conversion to vineyards or other development and timber is sustainably harvested to support the local economy while at the same time restoring the forest and protecting animal habitats. Photo by The North Face.

What most people don’t know is that this was simultaneously one of Shel Silverstein’s most popular and most controversial books. He had difficulty finding a publisher at first and some thought the story was too negative. Is the lesson about giving and loving unconditionally or is it about how one can ask too much of nature?  Nobody knows the answer except Shel, but I believe the message is both. Nature does indeed give unconditionally to humankind and it is our responsibility to respect those benefits without taking too much. Our relationship with trees is the perfect example of this relationship.

03-09-2016 Sustainability Field Trip Garcia River Forest James Rogers Carol Shu Rachel bruton Back Yard Hoodie 587This forest is home to northern spotted owls, coho salmon, steelhead trout, mountain lions, Point Arena mountain beavers, and tiny coastal tailed frogs (only 1-2 inches in size), to name a few inhabitants. Photo by The North Face.

This year marks the beginning of the five-year countdown to Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. Each year will have a major goal to honor the earth. The theme for this year? Trees for the Earth. The Earth Day Network has pledged to plant 7.8 billion trees worldwide to account for every single person living on Earth. Yes, that’s a ‘B’ for billion.

03-09-2016 Sustainability Field Trip Garcia River Forest James Rogers Carol Shu Rachel bruton Back Yard Hoodie 564Alterra Hetzel, Forest Business Development Manager for The Conservation Fund, explaining the many beneficial impacts of their climate and carbon project at the Garcia River Forest. Photo by The North Face.

At The North Face headquarters in Alameda, California, we will be celebrating Earth Day with an all-day volunteer event and yes, planting trees will be part of the day. We also plant trees to offset the emissions from our employee commutes to the office. This program is facilitated through a partnership with The Conservation Fund. The North Face is built on a love for exploring the outdoors and therefore protecting our outdoor playgrounds is fundamental to our business. Since 2007, The North Face has offset 100 percent of the emissions from our business travel and employee commuting through The Conservation Fund. From 2007 to 2013, we helped plant 35,000 trees across six national wildlife refuges that protect habitat for wildlife and improve water quality across the Gulf Coast.  In the past two years, we've supported sustainable forestry projects in our own back yard that protect redwood forests, which clean air, filter water, and shelter wildlife such as coho salmon and spotted owls.  All told, these climate commitments with The Conservation Fund will trap more than 42,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) by protecting and restoring forests.

03-09-2016 Sustainability Field Trip Garcia River Forest James Rogers Carol Shu Rachel bruton Back Yard Hoodie 548The team examining a map of the 23,780-acre (37.5 square mile) forest to plot out the areas to visit. Photo by The North Face.

We recently had the pleasure of joining The Conservation Fund to visit one of these sustainable forestry projects, the Garcia River Forest in Mendocino County, California. The Conservation Fund purchased the Garcia River Forest in 2004 but prior to that purchase, the forest was owned by a series of industrial timber companies that managed it for intensive, commercial timber production. This caused soil erosion and excessive stream sedimentation in the Garcia River watershed, home to coho salmon and steelhead trout. Now, the Redwood and Douglas-fir dominated forest is managed with input from the local community and public agencies with just over a third of the land designated as an ecological preserve, where ecological objectives drive management.

03-09-2016 Sustainability Field Trip Garcia River Forest James Rogers Carol Shu Rachel bruton Back Yard Hoodie 544Madison Thomson, Forester for The Conservation Fund’s North Coast Forest Initiative, taking us into the Garcia River Forest. Photo by The North Face.

Implementing these forestry practices helps contribute to the economy, the community, and wildlife diversity. Forest experts Alterra Hetzel and Madison Thomson, from The Conservation Fund, were our guides for the day. It turns out that Madison knows how to make an owl call and the Northern Spotted Owl happens to be one of the species that benefits from these forestry practices. Sure enough, Madison was able to get an owl to call back and although we didn’t see it, we knew it was there, living in the trees…the giving trees.

It’s cliché to be a tree-hugger but how about planting a tree? We encourage you to get outside and enjoy the trees this Earth Day.
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