Reforesting areas burned by fires - East Valley Tribune: Living Green

Reforesting areas burned by fires

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Lori Singleton is manager of SRP sustainability initiatives and technologies.

Posted: Sunday, July 10, 2011 3:00 pm | Updated: 10:37 am, Mon Jul 11, 2011.

As forest fires raged across the state a few weeks ago, it was heartbreaking to see thousands of trees consumed by flames. Just last month, the Wallow Fire destroyed more than 530,000 acres of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests making it the largest forest fire in the state’s history. Many residents lost their homes while all of us have lost all that these tranquil forests have to offer.

But it’s not just the beauty or serenity of the forests that we lose. We also lose the environmental benefits the trees have to offer. Here’s a quick snapshot of what is lost when these devastating fires hit our region:

Carbon dioxide absorption: A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds a year, the same amount of carbon generated from a car driven more than 8,500 miles.

 

Oxygen supply: About 98 percent of a tree’s weight is made up of six elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. In one year, one tree releases up to 260 pounds of oxygen.

 

Soil sustainability: Trees help the soil remain in good condition and sustainable, as they help reduce erosion and create suitable environment that allows microorganisms to grow.

 

Water preservation: Trees minimize topsoil erosion, keep hazardous pollutants in the soil from flowing into our waterways, hold up water runoff and persistently replenish our groundwater supplies.

In addition to the above benefits, we should also count the many species of birds, butterflies, insects, reptiles and mammals that utilize trees for their homes and food supply.

It's vital that trees are protected and replaced when fires such as the recent Wallow Fire and the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski Fire destroy hundreds of thousands of acres. That's why we've developed Trees for Change, an SRP EarthWise program for SRP customers.

Since the program began – with help from our customers – more than 155,000 trees have been planted in areas destroyed by the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which burned more than 460,000 acres. Once the recent damage has been assessed by forest officials, we hope to replant the areas devastated by this year’s fires. Trees for Change is an easy, personal way to effect change. Simply sign up to add $3, $6, $9 or more to your monthly SRP bill.SRP will match every dollar our customers contribute up to $160,000, with 100 percent of the funds used to plant trees in Arizona forests.

Our goal is to help return Arizona land to its original beauty while reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Reforestation of once-forested but currently unproductive areas destroyed by fires is a recognized and proven way to sequester carbon, helping to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in living plant tissue.

SRP has a long and rich history of environmental stewardship and is concerned about the environmental challenges we face today. SRP especially recognizes the importance of the climate-change issue and is committed to implementing balanced solutions to reduce greenhouse gases over time.

For more information about SRP EarthWise Trees for Change, log onto www.srpnet.com/trees or call (602) 236-4425.

Lori Singleton is manager of SRP sustainability initiatives and technologies.

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