Helping Conserve and Restore Our Forests
American Forests, the oldest national conservation organization in the United States, has been doing the hard work to conserve and restore forests since 1875. Since 2004, Clif Bar & Company has partnered with American Forests to restore natural forest habitats on our beloved public lands across North America from the Sierra Nevada range to the Appalachian Mountains, from the Great Lakes to the Rio Grande.
Clif Bar’s support of reforestation efforts — both through the sweat equity of Clif employees' planting efforts and through our support of American Forests’ restoration projects — is part of our company’s mission to plant 1 million trees by 2025. We donate a portion of proceeds from our CLIF BAR® seasonal bars to American Forests.
Why Are Trees So Important?
Healthy forests and trees, from the wilderness to cities, deliver essential benefits for climate, people, water, and wildlife. Forests capture carbon and are a leading, nature-based solution to climate change. They cool our neighborhoods, provide jobs, and are key to the survival of 80% of land-dwelling species. They also take care of us by filtering our water and air, and improving our physical and mental health, a benefit COVID-19 has made more crucial than ever.
“Restoring forests as a climate change solution offers the opportunity to capture huge amounts of carbon dioxide and create green jobs when millions of people are out of work in rural communities,” says Jad Daley, American Forests’ president and CEO. “Tree planting and care also create much needed green jobs in cities and move us closer to ‘tree equity,’ in which every neighborhood can benefit from the power of trees to improve our health by cooling and cleaning the air.”
Trees also prevent soil erosion from wind and rain, a benefit particularly important to our food system.
“As a key part of the climate solution, restoring healthy forests also helps to protect the farming systems we all depend on to grow our food,” adds Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar’s SVP of Environmental Stewardship.
American Forests is working to solve two critical issues: climate change and social inequities facing people in under-resourced communities that lack trees. They partner with local organizations to restore forests, build movements that drive forest policy on a large scale, and use innovative techniques to help forests withstand climate change. That’s especially important now, as climate change supercharges the stressors on our forests, putting species at risk we’ve come to depend on.
Take, for instance, the whitebark pine, a critical species that American Forests is trying to save with the help of Clif Bar and other partners.
American Forests/Jenny Nichols
Why Whitebark Pine?
Considered a “foundation species,” the gnarly whitebark pine is essential to other plants and animals that live in its midst, high up in the mountains where little can survive. Its large nutlike seeds — high in fat and calories — nourish dozens of species, including grizzly bears, in places where food sources are scarce. The stout, compact tree can establish itself in tough terrain upward of 12,000 feet and block harsh winds so other trees can take root and thrive.
Whitebarks help people, too. As one of the only trees at such high elevations, whitebarks hold snow in place and help guide skiers and hikers who might otherwise get lost. With their broad branches, they shade snow, preventing it from melting too quickly. That protects local water supplies — increasingly important as climate change heats up and dries out Western States.
Their hardiness also makes them dependable: Whitebarks can live up to 500 years and sometimes over 1,000 years.
But whitebark pines are in deep trouble. They’re vanishing due to climate change–induced droughts, wildfires, and bark beetle outbreaks. Their main threat is white pine blister rust, a non-native fungus that clings to a tree’s needles, eventually choking off parts of the tree by preventing nutrient flow. In some forests, blister rust has infected 90% of whitebarks. But with hard work and science, it’s possible to create healthy whitebark forests that could thrive for centuries.
Working Towards a Solution
That’s where American Forests and its partners come in. American Forests, Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation, and the U.S. Forest Service are creating an innovative national whitebark pine restoration strategy with support from local tribal members, skiers, and government agencies. The whitebark holds special meaning for tribes throughout the Western United States, including the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on Montana’s Flathead Reservation.
“The tree’s resiliency reminds me of us,” says Michael Durglo Jr., environmental director for the tribes. “Indigenous people have survived much trauma for many years, and we’re still surviving. So, for me, it became an intimate relationship with those trees.”
Bringing back the whitebark pine entails more than simply planting trees. It requires the kind of strategic approach that American Forests takes no matter the habitat — planting the right trees in the right places so that they’ll thrive.
American Forests, the U.S. Forest Service, tribes, and other partners have collaborated to identify, grow, and plant whitebarks screened for natural resistance to blister rust. Thanks to ongoing support from organizations like Clif Bar, American Forests is responsible for half of all disease-resistant whitebark pines that have been planted in the U.S. and Canada.
American Forests and its partners are leading the way so that this crucial tree can nourish and protect those around it for centuries to come.
Whether it’s our climate, water, air, farms, or wildlife, we’re all dependent on abundant, healthy forests. Through collective and individual efforts to conserve our forests, Clif Bar and American Forests know that all of us — together — can achieve a cleaner, greener world.
First two photos by American Forests/Jenny Nichols; All other photos by American Forests/Morgan Heim.