MD: Planting the Future – Accelerating Tree Planting Across Central Maryland

 Article by Ashley Traut, Senior Advisor, Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition

The Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition is tackling its first regional green infrastructure initiative thanks to a $1 million Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awarded in 2020.  The three-year grant, awarded to Howard County, one of our essential local government partners, sets the goal of tripling the rate of tree planting throughout Central Maryland.Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition Logo

The Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition (GBWC) is a coalition of public, private and nonprofit partners committed to uniting the Central Maryland region with a vibrant nature-based network that supports, restores and protects the environmental and public health of the Patapsco, Patuxent, and Gunpowder watersheds. We act as a catalyst for regional restoration projects by facilitating collaboration between our region’s stakeholders. Our goal is to provide the added capacity for our Coalition members to implement truly transformational projects that support biodiversity, discovery, health, equity, and community resilience.

The Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition began in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, with a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to identify coastal resilience strategies for Central Maryland. The project took the form of a comprehensive mapping effort within our three target watersheds, identifying all existing and potential green infrastructure opportunities. Potential opportunities were broken into five (5) priority categories, of which enhancing and restoring tree canopy was one. The final map can be explored here.

Map created during GBWC's initial grant.
Screenshot of final map created by GBWC displaying Resilient Strategy Opportunities.

The GBWC Steering Committee prioritized tree planting as our first regional initiative as a reflection of what the Coalition hopes to be for our partners; a seed for catalytic, comprehensive restoration and healing. To help unite our members around big, bold thinking, the Coalition holds monthly work group meetings on the following topics:

  • Planting and Maintenance – Determine the strongest, most unified, cost effective, accelerated tree-planting campaign possible for all interested partners operating within the GBWC territory
  • Planning, Mapping & Tracking – Develop systems to plan, map, track and value regional green infrastructure opportunities and projects throughout the GBWC territory
  • Marketing & Communications – Develop a unified tree marketing campaign that can be tailored to diverse audiences
  • Green Workforce Development – Identify green workforce development programs and funders, and explore opportunities to unite and expand efforts

To help officially launch our campaign, we hosted a series of “tree summits” this past summer for tree partners from across the GBWC territory to share about their own efforts, learn about other programs, and provide input on top priorities for the Coalition to address. The most commonly voiced obstacles/needs were mapping and determining planting locations (including equity), funding for large scale planting, community outreach and education, consistent maintenance (need for a larger green workforce), and adequate nursery supply. We plan to follow up on all of these issues in upcoming work group meetings.

Greatly aiding our campaign is the new statewide Tree Solutions Now Act that was passed in the 2021 legislative session. The Act calls for, and funds, the planting of five million trees over the next ten years, at least 10% of which must be planted in priority urban areas.  The GBWC is making every effort to collaborate with our state partners who are overseeing the Tree Solutions Now Act to be as coordinated and united as possible in our joint efforts.

The next 10 years are a critical window for taking bold action around climate change and biodiversity loss. The GBWC believes that trees and other nature-based practices are essential parts of the solution, and that our likelihood of success is far greater if we all work together. We welcome anyone interested in contributing to Planting the Future and/or other green infrastructure visioning and collaboration to contact us to discuss how we can come together to be a force multiplier in regional environmental restoration.

Funding partners include the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, US EPA, and the Chesapeake Bay Program. For more information, contact Ashley Traut, GBWC Senior Advisor, at [email protected]