Earth Day’s coming: plan now for ways to help these worthy groups, and the planet

Earth Day, April 22, will be here before we know it. Everyone loves taking action, recycling resources, cleaning up the planet or conserving special habitat. And, making a difference locally is always a good idea.

Here are several local organizations you might like to support, join, or just learn more about before Earth Day arrives:

Protect Oregon’s Heritage Trees

Have you ever admired an old gnarled tree, wondering, if it could talk, what stories it might tell? Oregon’s Heritage Tree Committee recognizes Oregon trees of significance, educates the public to promote their appreciation and protects them as part of our state’s heritage. Just one example: some mature ponderosa pines in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest are heritage trees set aside due to evidence of their use by Nez Pierce Indians.

The Oregon Heritage Tree Committee meets quarterly in various locations to consider new nominations. You can learn about Heritage trees throughout Oregon, sponsor or nominate a tree or get involved and volunteer by visiting the Oregon Travel Experience website, at:

by: PHOTO BY: CYNTHIA ORLANDO - Forests Today & Forever is a non-profit agency that promotes forest stewardship through education; here, at a wooded setting on private property, middle school students learn about bird's nests and owls.

Help Oregon’s urban forests

Even if you live in a highly populated urban center, remnant old growth trees and city-planted "street trees" form an urban canopy around your home, neighborhood and community called an “urban forest.” This urban canopy provides numerous important benefits including clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, reduced storm water treatment costs and higher property values. Oregon Community Trees (O.C.T.) promotes healthy urban and community forests throughout the state through leadership, education, awareness and advocacy. Members include urban planners, arborists, foresters, community activists and nursery industry representatives.

To honor outstanding individuals and organizations for leadership and accomplishments in urban forestry around the state, O.C.T. hosts an urban forestry awards program each year. Visit O.C.T.’s website at to register for the annual conference, or to get involved by offering your services.

Plant trees

Since 1989, Friends of Trees has planted a half million trees in the Portland-Vancouver and Eugene-Springfield metro areas. Their Neighborhood Trees program allows homeowners to buy discounted trees to plant with neighbors at weekend plantings. They offer public tree walks and maps, involve schoolchildren in restoring green spaces at weekend events and train all volunteers, even providing pizza and free t-shirts.

Visit them online today at and sign up for an upcoming tree planting event!

Restore natural areas

The Intertwine Alliance - a coalition of private firms, public agencies and nonprofit organizations - exists to ensure the region’s trail network is completed and its natural areas restored so that people of all ages can discover and enjoy the nearby outdoors near where they live. Their other goals include reducing utility and transportation costs and keeping Portland’s water clean. Of note: nationwide, there are only a handful of organizations like them.

The Alliance was built over many years and now boasts more than 100 formal partners. To register for their spring summit in March, find parks and trails in the area, or to find other ways to get involved:

Invest in our kids: help schools learn about forests, nature and forestry

Forests Today & Forever provides area educators and students with natural resource learning opportunities – these include a day of in-field lessons on private forested properties to support Outdoor Schools and teacher education.

Currently in Lane, Linn and Benton Counties, Forests Today & Forever also offers high school forestry and career exploration opportunities. These include tours of private and public forests guided by the professionals who manage them. Their one-day outdoor school events are hugely popular, attracting middle school classrooms from far and wide.

Find out how you can support their mission or sign up to help with these 1-day events by visiting them online at:

Help “SOLVE” it

SOLVE brings native and newly-transplanted Oregonians together to improve the environment and build a legacy of stewardship. Help clean up your community or local beach, or help with river restoration projects. In 2012, for example, some 49 volunteers worked with ODF staff in teams, removing massive amounts of garbage and debris - including 177 tires and a pickup full of invasive Scotch Broom plants - from the Tillamook State Forest.

With cleanup projects scheduled year-round, you can help clean up a creek, plant trees in a park, pull ivy and invasive plants or help restore a White Oak Savanna. You can even create your own SOLVE (formerly “SOLV”) event on their website, at:

Learn about birds

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study, 20 percent of all Americans are birdwatchers. It takes only a field guide, a spotting scope with tripod or pair of binoculars to go birding. That's good news, because having a bird-friendly yard or garden has never been more important - almost 80 percent of wildlife habitat in the U.S. is privately owned, and an average of 2 million acres each year is converted to residential use.

If you've ever wanted to learn more about the birds in your backyard and neighborhood, your local Audubon Chapter is the best place to start. Most host lectures, field trips and birding events every month. The Portland chapter even offers week-long summer camps for kids in 1st - 12th grade. Make friends, get physically active and go places!

For more information, as well as some great bird photos:

Cynthia Orlando has a B.S. in forest management and is a certified arborist for the Oregon Department of Forestry

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