Evers’ Earth Day pledge: Wisconsin will plant 100M trees by end of 2030

3 years ago, the state pledged to plant 75M trees by the end of 2030

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. Liz Dohms-Harter/WPR

Wisconsin will plant 100 million trees by the end of 2030 — 25 million more than pledged just three years ago, Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday as part of an Earth Day celebration. 

The governor has also pledged to conserve 125,000 acres of forest in Wisconsin in collaboration with public, private and non-governmental partners. 

“Planting trees and conserving forestlands are simple but powerful tools to help store carbon dioxide, improve air quality, protect wildlife habitats, and combat the climate crisis, all while supporting our statewide economies,” Evers said in a release. 

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On Earth Day 2021, Evers announced the state would join the U.S. chapter of the Global Trillion Trees Initiative. That pledge included planting 75 million trees and conserving forest land. 

Wisconsin has planted 32 million trees in the past three years, bringing the state more than 40 percent toward its prior goal. Of those, 9.8 million trees were planted in 2023, according to an annual report from the state Department of Natural Resources. The DNR supplied nearly 6.5 million of the seedlings planted. 

During his State of the State address earlier this year, Evers announced grant funding for a conservation easement covering 54,898 acres of the Pelican River Forest. The conservation project, which includes a total of 70,000 acres, will achieve 55 percent of the governor’s goal for forest land, according to the DNR. 

Pelican River Forest
The Pelican River Forest will be used for sustainable forest management. The Conservation Fund plans to protect wildlife and water quality habitat through conservation easements with the Wisconsin DNR. Photo by Jay Brittain/The Conservation Fund

“It was probably about five years ago that some of the folks in the conservation world encouraged the state to consider planting 50 million trees,” said Fred Clark, a forest ecologist who works for the conservation group Wisconsin’s Green Fire. 

 “The fact that we’re now targeting a 100 million trees by 2030 is an encouraging sign,” Clark said. 

Evers signed the executive order at a ceremony at Governor Nelson State Park in Waunakee, outside of Madison. The park is named after Wisconsin’s former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, who is credited as the founder of Earth Day. 

“A mature tree can store and exchange approximately 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in one year, meaning Wisconsin’s increased pledge will enable the state to store and exchange a total of 4.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year in mature trees planted due to the state’s Trillion Trees pledge alone,” the order states. 

Clark said it’s helpful to think about the difference in scale between a newly planted tree and  mature tree. A newly planted tree may pull a few ounces of carbon per year from the atmosphere as it grows, he said, while a mature hardwood tree weighs 2,000 pounds or more. 

“In the course of that tree’s life, that tree probably sequestered and pulled over a ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere and might pull another 150 to 200 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every additional year,” he said. 

“That’s why we need to do both. We need to be putting trees in the ground today and we need to be protecting the large trees around us,” Clark added. “We really have to have both those strategies and that’s what the governor’s order reflects.”