Andy Lipkis’ Love for Trees Still Grows!

Valentine’s day is around the corner, which means love is in the air. Andy Lipkis, the Founder of TreePeople, loves his family, his friends, and, of course, trees. As “Los Angeles’ Professional Lorax,” he considers every single tree lovable and worth fighting for.

His love for the environment began in the early ’70s when, on a camping trip, he took the issue of dying forests into his own teenage hands. Since then, he’s been an activist and champion for the environment.

Every sapling he’s ever worked with has been handled with the care and concern that it deserves. Like the growth of a tree he planted in 1977 (pictured above), his love of trees has grown exponentially since he founded TreePeople.

In honor of the beautiful trees his organization has planted over the last 40+ years, we asked him about the day those trees were planted in ’77!

What do you remember about planting trees that day?

This was 1974, our second year of planting. I remember what a great and really fun day it was with a whole group from the Theosophical Pathfinders that came up to this site in Barton Flats in the San Bernardino National Forest.

What were the logistics behind this planting? How did you get these trees, how did you choose a planting site, how did you get approval to plant there, who taught you to care for these trees, and who helped you plant?

We bought 10,000 bare root seedling trees from the California Division of Forestry, (Now, “CalFire”). These are Giant Sequoias, Sugar Pines and Incense Cedars. We potted them into quart milk cartons in schools in LA and then the California Air National Guard trucked them up to the forest, where we built a temporary nursery at Camp JCA, which was our base camp. We worked with the US Forest Service to get permission to plant, and they directed us to numerous small sites around Barton Flats where beetle and smog killed trees had been cut down and the land cleared. Our staff numbered about 6 people that summer, and we worked with youth from summer camps for the most part, but on this day, we a group of families came all the way up from Los Angeles, from the Theosophical Pathfinders.
We learned how to plant from two sources: The California Division of Forestry and from Foresters from the San Bernardino National Forest. These trees are planted across from Camp Tautona, (Camp Fire Girls), with whom we also planted, and the girls in that camp adopted the trees and watered them through the dry summer season.

How does it feel to see a photo of the trees you planted almost 45 years ago?

It is REALLY MOVING. It’s amazing how tall they’ve become…and they are still young compared to how big they could grow over a lifetime. These are mostly Giant Sequoia trees.  It is especially moving, because when we planted there, there were very large, possibly 500-800-year-old Ponderosa and Jeffrey Pine Trees surrounding the planting site.  When I returned to visit the trees in 2002, many of the large old pines had died.  I remember my mother’s spirit (who’d passed away a year earlier) Visiting with a smile on her face.