The North Carolina Forest Service is offering a 25 percent discount on tree seedling orders for military personnel throughout November to honor their service.
The discount will also aid the NCFS Nursery and Tree Improvement Program, which has helped cultivate approximately 15 million seedlings annually that can cover nearly 30,000 acres of land.
The NCFS grows and distributes seedlings that are native to North Carolina, and aims to create locally adapted fauna to develop a diverse customer base.
Since 1986, the Forestry Service has provided forestry planning and planting assistance for Camp Butner, a base 15 miles north of Durham. Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg have also partnered with NCFS as part of their pine restoration project.
“We’ve got these training bases across the state, and they need rural land around their bases, around their facilities, to train — for the flight paths for aircraft and all that kind of stuff,” said Jim Slye, the supervisor of the Nursery and Tree Improvement Program. “So, it’s in the best interest of everybody to have those working farms and forests.”
Slye said the "tree improvement" portion of the Nursery and Tree Improvement Program involves the selection of favorable genetic traits for reproduction, but the trees are not genetically modified.
“What do you want to plant?” Slye said. “Do you want to plant the worst specimen that you can find or do you want to plant the best specimen that you can find? And that’s where tree improvement comes in.”
Aaron Moody, who teaches in the UNC Department of Geography, said he thinks people should prioritize building a diverse and healthy ecosystem in mind when trying to find where to grow forests and determine which species of tree to plant.
“I think planting trees is a good idea, but it’s got to be the right mix of trees and it’s got to be in the right places,” Moody said. “So, not just wherever you can grow trees, but where trees are going to do the most good and not do any harm.”
He noted that initiatives to create or revitalize forests around the world in an effort to slow climate change are well-intentioned and marketable, but these efforts may end up harming ecosystems if important factors, like age and species diversity, are not taken into account.
“We don’t want to replace healthy, complex, diverse ecosystems with largely lifeless monocultures,” Moody said. “So if reforestation means to plant one kind of tree over vast areas, that might sequester carbon, but it also would not replace natural forest ecosystems.”
Building a sustainable forestry sector in North Carolina requires stopping the removal of healthy, functioning forest ecosystems, Moody said. He doesn’t want forestation to become a rationale for the harvesting of forests elsewhere.
Through the program, Slye said the NCFS hopes to grow genetically strong trees in large quantities for their few thousand customers to implement reforestation and afforestation.
North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said he is grateful for the service of active military personnel and veterans, many of whom are forestland owners in the state.
“Offering this discount is a way to honor their service and help North Carolina grow new forests and regrow forests after harvest, ensuring the long-term success for our vibrant forest sector,” Troxler said.
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