National Forest Foundation

Frequently Asked Questions

50 Million Trees

The NFF has planted trees on our National Forests for the last 10 years, and in that time, we have received many questions about our tree planting efforts. We have tried to answer the most frequently asked questions below, but if you do not see your question or would like to discuss a corporate partnership, please contact:

Why do you need to plant trees?

Every year, more and more of our National Forests are affected by natural disturbances that cause deforestation. Wildfire, insects and disease - exacerbated by climate change - are jeopardizing the very things that make our forests special. Planting trees helps restore forest cover to these lands, ensuring that our forests can continue to provide wildlife habitat, supply water to millions of Americans, and help fight climate change. Learn more about the benefits of reforestation.

Where are the trees planted?

The National Forest Foundation (NFF) works with the USDA Forest Service to select planting sites on our 193-million-acre National Forest System where the ecological need is greatest. Many of our plantings occur in the Western U.S. where wildfires are driving reforestation need, but we plant in all regions, responding to where trees are needed most.

Can I choose where my trees will be planted?

The NFF typically pools smaller contributions and applies them to a suite of priority projects on an annual basis. However, we can arrange specific projects for our leading corporate partners who are able to commit to larger planting projects. In those cases, we can occasionally provide projects in the geographies that overlap with our partner’s interest.

Why does the Forest Service need extra money to plant trees, isn’t this their job?

While the Forest Service is tasked with managing our National Forests, the rate of deforestation caused by wildfire and other natural events has outpaced the agency’s ability to respond. There are currently more than 1 million acres of National Forests in urgent need of reforestation. That’s where the NFF comes in – we’re working to raise funds necessary to help the Forest Service reforest these cherished landscapes.

How does the NFF partner with the Forest Service?

The NFF is the only Congressionally-chartered organization solely focused on our National Forests. We don't duplicate the responsibilities of the Forest Service, but rather complement its work by supporting important initiatives like tree planting on our National Forests.

For our tree planting campaign, the Forest Service identifies the areas of greatest reforestation need, sources the seedlings, grows the seedlings in a Forest Service nursery, contracts out the planting, and monitors seedling survival.

How do you decide where to plant trees and what trees to plant?

We plant trees in areas that have experienced a natural disturbance and only plant native and ecologically appropriate species picked by Forest Service professionals. Sometimes we plant only one species, sometimes multiple – every project is designed to improve ecological conditions for each specific forest.

How do I know that my trees were actually planted?

The NFF adheres to strict auditing guidelines. At the completion of each tree planting season, the NFF generates detailed reports about that year’s tree planting projects for our partners.

Where has the NFF already planted trees?

To date, the NFF has planted more than 13.6 million trees across thousands of acres of our National Forests. To see some of our project sites, visit our interactive online map.

Where does the Forest Service get its trees?

The Forest Service operates six tree nurseries where it grows native tree seedlings for planting on National Forests. These trees are grown from locally sourced seeds, and the nurseries serve as research centers for the agency to develop disease-resistant strains of trees.

Are seedlings monitored for survival?

Before seedlings are ever planted, the Forest Service is careful to plant only when conditions are optimal, ensuring the highest possible survival rate. The Forest Service monitors seedlings for several years after they are planted. They use random sampling and, if needed, will carry out follow-up care or install browse protectors to further boost seedling survival.

Are planted trees going to be harvested or somehow managed in the future?

No. The NFF only supports tree planting projects to restore forest health following natural disturbances. In some cases, the Forest Service may employ limited forest management, but only to improve forest resiliency and reduce the risk of wildfire.

Why are some areas reforested and others not?

There is a difference between the number of acres affected by disturbance and the number of acres that are in need of reforestation. Resource management experts at the Forest Service are careful to assess areas that are impacted by disturbances such as wildfire. In many cases, areas will naturally regenerate. Other areas require a more hands-on approach like tree planting. The NFF works with the Forest Service to address those areas that are in immediate need of attention following disturbances.

How does climate change factor into tree planting?

Climate change is creating new stressors for our forests by changing important environmental conditions like temperature and precipitation. The Forest Service actively considers climate change when selecting tree species and assessing site conditions. Learn more about the impacts of climate change and how foresters are responding.

How do these trees help climate change?

Forests in the U.S. offset between 10 to 20 percent of U.S. emissions each year. Reforestation helps sustain and increase the carbon sequestration potential of our National Forests, mitigating the effects of global climate change.

By planting trees, aren’t we just creating a fire hazard that will burn again?

No. Tree planting is a very important method to re-establish forest cover in areas where it was lost. The Forest Service is the most advanced forest management agency in the world, and is mindful to not create fire hazards through tree planting. Trees are planted at a density that resembles natural or historic conditions.

When are trees planted?

The Forest Service only plants seedlings when conditions are optimal and when a high survival rate is expected, typically in the spring. If your tree planting contribution occurs during or after the planting season, your seedlings will likely be planted the following planting season.

When did the campaign to plant 50 million trees officially start?

The campaign publicly launched on Earth Day 2018, but we’re counting trees that we’ve planted since October 1, 2017 towards the campaign goal. We will fundraise through Earth Day 2023 and aim to have all projects completed by 2025.

Why 50 million? How will 50 million trees make a difference?

Planting 50 million trees in five years is a large goal, but it’s achievable with your help. Our campaign will raise awareness of this issue and help the Forest Service get ahead of reforestation needs. By planting 50 million trees, we will improve tens of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, restore important watersheds that supply Americans with water, and sequester millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide.

What happens once the NFF reaches its 50 million trees goal? Is the tree planting need eliminated?

While our goal is to plant 50 million trees, there will always be reforestation needs on our National Forests. Once we reach our goal, we will reassess our strategies to ensure that continuing reforestation needs are met.

How much does it cost to plant a tree and what does my money actually support?

The NFF plants one tree for every dollar donated. Your donations help provide seedlings that are then planted by the Forest Service. For every dollar donated, the Forest Service invests $2 in these important projects in the form of seed sourcing, identifying the areas in most need of tree planting, contracting the labor, and providing follow-up care to ensure the seedlings survive.

How much of my donation goes directly to tree planting?
The National Forest Foundation works hard to maximize your donations. We are proud that we invest 85% of every donation directly into our tree planting programs. We have attained the highest ratings by Charity Navigator and Guidestar, and are accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

How can I get involved?

You can contribute to our tree planting campaign by donating to the campaign. Corporations and small businesses can become partners. Individuals and groups that want to help can start a simple online fundraiser. Visit our website to learn about all of these options. With your help, we can plant 50 million trees.

My organization is hosting a fundraiser for tree planting, and we would like to donate the proceeds to the NFF, how do I do this?

Thank you for thinking of us! You can submit a one-time donation through our online donation page. If you prefer to issue a check, please make your gift payable to the National Forest Foundation and indicate that it is for tree planting. Mail to: Fort Missoula Road, Bldg 27 Suite 3, Missoula, MT 59804.

How will my business be recognized?

While recognition depends on your business’ contribution level, the NFF will work with our corporate partners to provide recognition of your support. Please see our corporate recognition levels to learn more.

Can the NFF provide my company a tree planting certificate to give to our customers/clients?

We work with our partners to create messaging for certificates that our partners design and produce. Depending on the contribution level, you may use official NFF logos in your content and access our professional staff for assistance with messaging.

I want to host a tree planting volunteer day with my organization. Does the NFF provide trees for such volunteer days?

While we appreciate your interest in wanting to host a volunteer planting day, we do not currently assist with such events. However, we do occasionally hold volunteer stewardship planting days with our leading corporate partners who have committed to large planting partnerships. Please contact Wes Swaffar, Director of Ecosystem Services, at 406.830.3356 or wswaffar@nationalforests.org, or Monica Perez-Watkins, Tree Planting Coordinator, at 406.830.3354 or mperezwatkins@nationalforests.org, to learn more.

You Can Help

Donate

Donate online to support more tree-planting projects on our National Forests.