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PrintReleaf Certifies First Reforestation Project in the United States

February 17, 2017

Partnership with Trees, Water & People activates first project in Pine Ridge, South Dakota

PrintReleaf’s Certified Global Reforestation Partner, Trees, Water & People [TWP], has activated the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as PrintReleaf’s first US-based reforestation project.  Located in South Dakota, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Wazí Aháŋhaŋ Oyáŋke in Lakota) is an Oglala Lakota Native American Reservation encompassing 3,468.85 square miles and is the eighth-largest reservation in the United States, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

The northern area of the Reservation includes the southern section of the Badlands National Park.  The Reservation also aggregates three counties, which are among the poorest counties in the US.  Only 84,000 acres of the reservation, roughly 131 square miles, or 4% of the total area, is suitable for agriculture.  This despite an estimated resident population of nearly 30,000, many of whom still rely on the land for fishing, hunting, and gathering.

In the early stages of development, PrintReleaf focused on areas of the world in which concerted reforestation would have the greatest and most immediate impact.  Environmental benefits, local economy, and job creation were among the factors considered, alongside the ability of the chosen forestry partners to achieve PrintReleaf Certification from SGS International.  Areas that have been heavily degraded by industrialization and poverty; the Amazon, Madagascar, Dominican Republic and Mexico were among PrintReleaf’s first certified reforestation projects. 

This map shows global 12-year annual forest loss and gain from Global Forest Watch in partnership with World Resources Institute. The data is the result of time-series analysis by University of Maryland Department of Geographical Sciences of 654,178 Landsat 7 ETM+ images in characterizing global forest extent and change from 2000 through 2012.

While most partners and customers engaged within the PrintReleaf Exchange [PRX] understood serving the greatest need, there was of course interest from American businesses to reforest directly on American soil.  PrintReleaf’s partnership with Trees, Water & People and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is partly in response to customer interest, but also of great honor to serve the land, its Tribal people, and help combat the ecological impact of climate change.

 “Tribal Nations will likely be one of the most heavily impacted populations in North America by Climate Change due to several factors including an intimate, long-standing relationship with the land, limited and relatively non-diverse economies, poor energy security and transportation options, and the practice of subsistence activities in many communities.” -- Keith A. Rose, Environmental Protection Agency

Trees, Water & People works directly with the Oglala Lakota Native Americans to actively combat a wide-range of environmental challenges, exasperated by a rapidly changing climate, lands rights issues, and poverty.  Greening the landscape to combat climate change through carbon sequestration and developing income opportunities are paramount to the Pine Ridge Project. 

Below is a profile and description of the Pine Ridge project as well as the environmental and social value being delivered at a ground level.  All PrintReleaf end-users now have the option to login and subscribe to the Pine Ridge project.

Project Goals 

  • Double the number of trees planted from 15,000 to about 30,000 in 2017 and continue to build in the years ahead as funding allows. There is a lot of land within two historical fire areas (totaling 20,000 acres) to plant, which allows for room to expand in the years ahead.
  • Create a sustainable reforestation program on the Pine Ridge Reservation, including training a local workforce of Native Americans to care for and plant tree seedlings.
  • Reforest wildlife habitat zones within two fire areas to jumpstart species return and restoration within the fire areas.

Project Outline
The project is in its third year of a long-term approach that will restore fire degraded landscapes, store atmospheric carbon, and improve the skills and livelihoods of the local Lakota youth who will primarily be planting these trees for future generations on the reservation. The project is also aimed at rebuilding the Lakota's sense of ownership, stewardship and responsibility over their tribal lands.

Restoration Approach
As with all fires, some areas of the forest have been completely cleared of all trees, while in other areas, varying numbers of trees have survived.  As there has never been any reforestation work done on the Pine Ridge Reservation, training people in the care and transport of tree seedlings is very important.  Similarly, training crews on how to work together in an organized and efficient way to plant the trees is also important and there are no previously trained tree planters on the reservation.

Choosing the right places to plant within a 20,000 acre fire zone is critical for the success of the project and for achieving the goals.  We partner with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Oglala Lakota tribe to determine optimum site location and resolve access issues.

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