Holcomb, nature allies celebrate planting 1 million trees

April 28, 2024 | by magnews24.com

Gov. Eric Holcomb (left), DNR Director Dan Bortner and GSGP Program Director Mike Piskur shovel soil around a newly planted cucumber magnolia tree on Friday, April 26, 2024 on the Statehouse Lawn in Indianapolis. (Leslie Bonilla Muñiz/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

The cucumber magnolia tree, freshly planted on the Indiana Statehouse’s plush green lawn, stands lanky and sparse.

But the 12-foot sapling will grow to “stand guard” outside the capital building for “generations to come,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said.

His administration on Friday celebrated the fulfillment of a four-year-old promise to plant 1 million trees in public lands around the state. Officials marked the occasion with a ceremonial planting of the millionth tree, grown at Clark State Forest.

Holcomb made the pledge in his 2020 State of the State speech. Department of Natural Resources Director (DNR) Dan Bortner said his agency “knew it would be a massive undertaking” but added, “Thankfully for all Hoosiers, conservation is a team sport.”

Bortner lauded a lengthy list of natural resources partners, telling the crowd, “It’s the people standing here with us today — plus many, many more — who stepped forward to help us plant trees that one day will tower over our descendants, leaving a legacy that will long outlast our time on this planet.”

DNR picked trees native to Indiana, including red oak, white oak, bur, chinkapin, swamp chestnut, Shumard, pin, cherry bark oak, and black walnut. They were planted on state forest, state park, fish and wildlife area, and nature preserve land.

Millions more trees could be on the way.

In October, the leaders of eight states and two Canadian provinces — including Indiana’s Holcomb — launched a campaign to plant an additional 250 million trees by 2033. All are part of the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers (GSGP).

Holcomb is term-limited, with eight gubernatorial candidates hoping to succeed him. But Bortner said the change in leadership wouldn’t jeopardize the new, higher goal.

Indiana’s next governor, he noted, will be part of the regional group leading the charge. And, tree planting has been a unifying force.

“There’s no downside to planting trees,” Bortner said. “There’s different ideas of how to go about it and things like that, but everybody supports putting more trees in the ground. And it’s good for the environment, it’s good for for recreation. I mean, there’s just so many positives to it. So, you know, all you can do is leave it ready to go.”

Much of Indiana’s forested land was cut down in the 1800s for lumber and to open fields for farming, according to Friday’s news release. The state created its forestry-focused division in 1901 to conserve state forests.

Now, Indiana is home to 4.8 million acres of forestland, including 160,000 acres across state forests, per the release.

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