No shade tree? Blame not the sun but yourself.

                                                        ANCIENT CHINESE PROVERB




If you've read this far, we do have some expectations. We expect that you've started looking differently at your yard, your street, and your neighborhood. If you've no trees at all, we hope you'll feel as if you've been blind. If a green neighborhood has kept you comfortable, perhaps you're feeling nervous about the lack of young trees growing up or the maintenance of what's there. Maybe you've even put pen to workbook.

However, this book should take you beyond what's possible when neighbors start working with neighbors. The dream includes an ongoing relationship with your city's staff in which they are excited and able to routinely help you with your projects: cutting concrete, supplying tools, hauling debris, and matching costs of trees and planting. It includes an end to confrontation and turf battles and a beginning of knowledgeable citizen support of appropriate urban-forestry budgets. Getting citizens jazzed about planting is half the equation. The other half involves respect for our professionals and a safe way for them to share their knowledge.


Create a citizen tree board or join an existing one. Help build a professional urban-forest management system for your area by working with interested council representatives. Meet whoever is in charge of city trees in your area. What support does that person need to get the job done? Do you, or can you, share objectives? Try to work together.

Challenge your young people to take their city back, to dream of how it could be, and to begin taking action to make it happen. We do not subscribe to the philosophy that assumes we must work with kids because everyone else is a lost cause; this book makes that clear. However, young people have a natural capacity to dream big dreams. They don't mind looking crazy. Encourage them, whenever you can, to investigate the state of their urban forest, ask questions of elected officials, make big plans, raise trees and bond with them, plant on their campuses and in their communities, and participate in ongoing care. This activity can happen only if environmental stewardship is made a part of the school curriculum. We believe these skills will be vital for the new environmental ethic that is emerging around the world.


The current outpouring of support for planting is encouraging and most welcome. Trees are becoming popular critters. They're politically correct and non-controversial. They're up there with motherhood and apple pie. But that's all symbolism. Your job is to choose good trees and good homes for them, to plant them well and take care of them. We hope this book sets you on the path more profoundly than any stirring speech or promise. Regardless of any national program that may come our way, the role you play in your community is the most important. Nobody on the outside knows what's needed in your neighborhood except you and your neighbors. Other folks may plant trees there, but you're the ones who'll be around to keep them alive. From our perspective, a national program should be a celebration of what each of us is doing independently, in a spirit of cooperation, to put our country and our environment back together.

Community urban forestry is a brand new field and TreePeople is only one of several groups playing a leadership role. Because the movement is growing so rapidly, it's stretching us beyond our ability to respond with the competence and personal attention we demand of ourselves. We wrote this book so you could take the ball and run with it, surpassing us with your energy and creativity, and to give you permission not only to succeed, but to fail and plug on, as we have and will doubtless continue to do.

We've learned from conducting Citizen-Forester trainings that this material is greatly enhanced when people are able to share their experiences and together work through their ideas, problems, frustrations, and successes. This book is likely to raise even more questions for you. We encourage you to become uncommonly inquisitive and to appreciate that the future of the urban forest is in your hands as much as it in the hands of anyone else. Take heart, have courage, enjoy the ride!


We plant trees not for ourselves, but for future generations. 

                                                  CAECILIUS STATIUS, 220-168 B.C.



TreePeople is a problem-solving organization that fosters environmental stewardship through personal involvement, community action, and global awareness. Its offices and headquarters are located in Los Angeles on Mulholland Drive in a forty-five-acre park developed by TreePeople and held under a lease from the Recreation and Parks Department of the City of Los Angeles.

TreePeople seeks to move the public from opinion to action. Rather than expecting change through legislation, the organization encourages its constituency to use its power to personally improve the environment.

Legally and financially TreePeople is similar to many other nonprofit (501(c)3 tax-exempt) organizations. It is incorporated, governed by a board of directors, and has a paid professional staff. It receives its most basic and dependable financial support from a rapidly expanding base of 25,000 dues-paying members, and its budget is supplemented by the contributions of corporations and foundations and by occasional contracts with government agencies.

The following is meant not to impress, but to provide a window on the long and steady evolution of the organization, to give you hope and courage. Note particularly the rise of community action at the National Urban Forestry Conferences, the steady growth of grassroots membership support, and the way TreePeople has responded to unforeseen circumstances.


The first Los Angeles Times article, "Andy vs. the Bureaucratic Deadwood," appears in April with a public request for four thousand dollars to fund what is to be the first TreePeople activity (although no actual organization exists at this time), a summer tree-planting program of 8,000 trees in the San Bernardino National Forest. By summer, $10,000 is raised. The California Conservation Project (CCP) is created as a nonprofit corporation to handle the money needed to do the tree planting. Sears, Potlatch, and American Motors are the first major contributors.


Year Two begins with a goal of 10,000 trees potted during the week of Arbor Day. Agencies involved include the California Division of Forestry, California Air National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, Los Angeles Urban Forest Council, L.A. Bicentennial Committee, Southern California Edison (SCE), Camp JCA, ACTION (Peace Corps/VISTA), and numerous civic groups and schools. The public unofficially renames the California Conservation Project "the tree people." TreePeople News, the first newsletter, is published in December announcing the new Tree Dedication program.


The organization receives its first grant-$5,000 from ACTION.


The Los Angeles City Recreation & Parks Department grants TreePeople a conditional-use permit of its Mountain Fire Station 108 for developing a small-scale nursery to grow seedlings. The Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) donates a '50s vintage fuel truck, which becomes TreePeople's water truck.


ARCO and TreePeople create the Growing Concern community tree-planting program. In November, TreePeople officially takes over the Mountain Fire Station grounds as its headquarters; the site is immediately designated as Coldwater Canyon Park. By the end of this fourth year, TreePeople has planted 50,000 trees.


Severe rains and local flooding give TreePeople its first experience in mobilizing volunteers for disaster-relief work, resulting in the headquarters being designated L.A.'s Emergency Resource Center. Programs now include tours of the park and facilities, the Little Treehouse summer workshop, community seminars, tree plantings, overnight mountain eco-tours, and classroom presentations. The California Department of Education's Environmental Education Program awards TreePeople its first education grant, and 15,000 schoolchildren are reached in the first year. By year end, TreePeople's tally is at 80,000 trees—5,000 of them in urban areas. The park's nursery houses 10,000 seedlings. At the American Forestry Association's (AFA) First National Urban Forestry Conference in Washington, D.C., community activists, including TreePeople, meet in the halls to network. And it's official—the California Conservation Project, Inc. is now TreePeople, Inc.


The membership program begins. In March, TreePeople closes the Marina Freeway for a Tree Run, sponsored by Louisiana Pacific and KZLA. The closure, a first for an L.A. freeway, attracts 5,000 runners and makes California transportation history by requiring special legislation in Culver City, Los Angeles County, and the California State Legislature.


TreePeople's Forestry Team is launched with the planting of sixty large trees, set up for a Xerox Corporation employees' group wanting a worthwhile civic-improvement project. In February, 3,000 volunteers (responding to 1,200 calls for help) are mobilized to assist local homeowners in volunteer-organized emergency-relief effort during excessive rains and flooding. For the first time, TreePeople activity becomes a media event. Andy Lipkis appears on The Tonight Show, and Johnny Carson makes a personal contribution to replace tools lost during the relief work. On the tenth anniversary of Earth Day, 2,000 people attend a celebration at the TreePeople headquarters. The Global 2000 ("Doomsday") Report is released by the President's Council on Environmental Quality and proclaims planetary devastation by the end of the century unless paths of unprecedented global cooperation and action are found.


The City of Los Angeles Planning Department drafts an Air Quality Management Plan that calls for the planting of a million trees to help comply with the air-quality standards of the 1970 Clean Air Act. The city estimates the trees will require twenty years to plant, at a cost of 200 million dollars. It turns to TreePeople. In response to this forecast, its recent disaster-relief success, and the Doomsday Report, TreePeople launches the Million Tree Campaign. (See Chapter 5.)


At AFA's Second National Urban Forestry Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, Andy Lipkis gives a twelve-minute presentation on community involvement.


TreePeople publishes its Planters' Guide to the Urban Forest, a book designed to take community groups and individuals through the maze of urban tree planting. The Los Angeles Times Home Magazine devotes an entire edition to the Million Tree Campaign, including a pictorial guide to suitable trees for planting around the home. TreePeople is featured in Fortune and Omni magazines. After essentially being a family affair, the TreePeople Board of Directors begins regular meetings and elects public members.


The organization attempts to save some of the hundreds of thousands of surplus bare-root fruit trees that are burnt at the end of the selling season. Almost 26,000 are donated from wholesale growers in California's Central Valley to be trucked to Los Angeles under refrigeration, pruned, bagged, and distributed to low-income families and Indian reservations through food banks, churches, and schools. Several volunteers spend two weeks camped at a downtown refrigerated warehouse coordinating the project. (The trees bear fruit within a year.) The millionth tree is planted in the San Fernando Valley, four days before the Olympic torch is lit. To celebrate, staff and volunteers go to the mountains and plant 7,000 seedlings in one day. Andy and Katie vacation abroad, where their presentations help launch programs in London and Ireland. TreePeople takes on its largest urban planting to date, a 1.5-mile stretch of the Long Beach Freeway.


Ronald Reagan gives the Voluntary Action Award to GTE for its assistance during the Million Tree Campaign. TreePeople's contributing membership stands at 1,500. A direct-mail campaign is launched to solicit new members.


In the days following a devastating fire, TreePeople coordinates the hasty evacuation of waterlogged books from the Los Angeles Central Library. (According to the Library of Congress, this effort sets a record for removing more books in less time than any previous evacuation effort.) Three days later, two TreePeople volunteers fly to Africa with 6,000 surplus bare-root fruit trees, set aside the previous February during the annual local distribution. (This action follows a year of research to match available trees with suitable recipients, climates, locations, cultures, and soil types in five countries. Over the next three years, 1,200 additional trees are distributed with the cooperation of humanitarian assistance groups, indigenous organizations, and government agencies. ) After the experience of the Million Tree Campaign, the Citizen Forester Training is established, to place more emphasis on quality of planting and maintenance than on quantity of trees planted. Andy and Katie's plenary-session presentation of the Million Tree Campaign receives a standing ovation at AFA's Third National Urban Forestry Conference in Orlando, Florida.


Susan Becker, director of the Africa Fruit Tree project, visits all fourteen villages to find survival rates between 80 and 90 percent. Andy and Katie speak in Australia on behalf of Target: 200 Million Trees, a national effort inspired by the Million Tree Campaign. (A year later, the target is reached one month before the deadline.) TreePeople's work in schools is renamed the Environmental Leadership program. This year it reaches 30,000 children. Staff levels move from ten to eight and end the year at fourteen.

TreePeople members now number 10,000. To help L.A. prepare for its goal of creating citywide mandatory recycling within three years, TreePeople offers its Environmental Leadership program and develops a recycling component for its curriculum. During the school year that follows, 60,000 children—double the number stated in the contract—go through the program.


TreePeople's internal management enters a new era of professionalism with the addition of a managing director to serve and guide a staff that jumps from fifteen in January to thirty-one in December. The organization is recognized by the United Nations and covered by Charles Kuralt's "Sunday Morning," the global telecast "Our Common Future," and an article in Time magazine. TreePeople holds a workshop in Tanzania on Home Economics and Horticulture for twenty-six trainees; two are from the African villages that received fruit trees. They return to their communities as teachers, prepared to establish and run self-sufficient fruit-tree projects. At AFA's Fourth National Urban Forestry Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, citizen groups are more present than ever, and half a day is set aside for their presentations.


TreePeople's largest-ever urban planting—7 miles long and more than 300 trees in one day—honors the birth and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. With the increase in public concern for the environment, TreePeople's phone now rings on average every forty-one seconds during the workday. Membership jumps from 15,000 to 18,000 in the first three months. Over 100 graduates of Citizen Forester Training now actively organize plantings. The Environmental Leadership program reaches 107,000 schoolchildren this year. The White House invites input from TreePeople in the development of the National Tree Trust. In April—Earth Day month—TreePeople appears in Smithsonian; Mother Jones, and Life magazines, East West Journal, Audubon, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. In the first five months of the year, TreePeople assists at or runs thirty plantings, resulting in more than 18,000 trees in the ground.


Los Angeles hosts AFA's Fifth National Urban Forestry Conference in October. TreePeople invites every one of you to attend and swap success stories!



Copyright 1990 by TreePeople with Andy and Katie Lipkis

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