Critical Tree Restoration at U.S. Air Force Base Defies Expectations

Apr 25, 2022 3:30 PM ET
Summary: 
  • 12,000 acres of slash pine destroyed by hurricane now turned into paper
  • Longleaf pine restoration timeline shrinks from 35 years to 3-5 years as Base and the Arbor Day Foundation shift strategy post-storm and work together to replant
  • P&G helps fund project through its responsible forestry commitment
Blog

In October of 2018, Hurricane Michael passed directly over Tyndall U.S. Air Force Base near Panama City, Florida. The Category 5 storm destroyed 12,000 acres of mature slash pine trees surrounding the area. While the Air Force Base had funding for the cleanup, support was needed to replace the trees and ensure a healthy, forested future in an environment considered to be one of the most diverse ecosystems outside of the tropics.

Enter the Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit organization that for the last 50 years has distributed and planted nearly 500 million trees in more than 50 countries. With the support of its partners like Procter & Gamble, the Arbor Day Foundation has committed to replenish the forest surrounding the base in a sustainable way that will ensure the ecosystem thrives for years to come. Since the hurricane, the Arbor Day Foundation’s team has worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Tyndall Air Force Base’s natural resources department to bring to life a restoration plan that best fits the land’s needs.

The plan started with ensuring no rubble from the storm went to waste. The team sent timber scraps to local paper mills where they were used to produce paper and fuel the papermaking machines. This was no easy feat: The cleanup portion of the project took 1.5 years to complete.

Since then, the Arbor Day Foundation and its partners have donated over 3.5 million seedlings. The original pre-storm longleaf pine restoration timeline shrunk from 35 years to an estimated 3-5 years thanks to strategy shifts after the storm. Commanders from the base have joined in, going out to the grounds themselves to plant trees.

One of the biggest benefactors from the restoration are the animals that call the land home. There were 19 local species impacted by the hurricane’s destruction, including the endangered gopher tortoise, which is being closely monitored by certified foresters overseeing the project. The Arbor Day Foundation and its planting partners are working to ensure biodiversity in the growing forest can thrive.

Over the last year, almost 3,000 acres have been restored. The number of trees put in the ground is equivalent to 300 tons of air pollutants removed, which is enough oxygen to support over 15,000 people. As trees are important for people’s wellbeing, continued progress in this effort will benefit the service members at Tyndall Air Force Base and surrounding communities.

The Arbor Day Foundation joined Tyndall Air Force Base at its annual Earth Day event to celebrate the tree-planting collaboration and share details about sustainable tree restoration with community members. Procter & Gamble, a funder of the project and many other restoration programs in areas devastated by natural disasters, donated a truckload of Charmin toilet paper to the base in addition to the tree-planting support. The company’s “Protect, Grow, Restore” responsible forestry strategy helps to ensure the continued growth of forests now and for generations to come. Charmin is proud to get behind the project and ensure those on the base “Enjoy the Go!”