Trees NOW Isabella spruces up region with tree plantings

Isabella County is a little greener these days – and not just because of the holidays.

Volunteers with Trees NOW Isabella, a local nonprofit group, are making strides in growing the tree canopy in Mt. Pleasant and Isabella County one planting at a time. A tree canopy is the proportion of land area shaded by trees.

“This whole region was once heavily forested. But in the last 150 years, we’ve seen Mt. Pleasant’s tree canopy plummet from about 90% to only 22%,” says James Hageman, Trees NOW co-founder and retired Central Michigan University biochemistry professor.

Planting trees provides an effective method to combat the warming climate by drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and reducing heating and cooling needs, Hageman said. Trees also improve water and soil quality, reduce storm runoff, and improve mental health, making tree planting a benefit for all. 

According to the Arbor Day Foundation:
  • Trees make saving simple: Well-placed trees can reduce consumer energy use by 20%.
  • Trees make fresh air: One large tree can provide clean oxygen for up to four people.
  • Trees make people happy: Children and youth living in greener neighborhoods are calmer and healthier.
  • Trees make communities cool: An urban tree canopy can reduce city temps by 10 degrees.
“By dramatically increasing the number of trees in our community, we’ll all realize greater economic and health benefits,” Hageman says.
Jim Hageman, left, and David Alm are co-founders of Trees NOW Isabella. The organization is focused on reforesting Mt. Pleasant and Isabella County as one of the ways to promote helping the environment.
Hageman and David Alm co-founded Trees NOW Isabella two years ago and maintain a strong base of volunteers from many fields. United Way of Gratiot & Isabella Counties (UWGIC) is the fiscal sponsor for the initiative, meaning the project fund is managed by UWGIC.

“United Way is thankful for the work that Trees NOW Isabella is doing in our community, and we are proud to partner in this important effort,” says Annie Sanders, UWGIC president and CEO.

In October, volunteers of all ages came together to plant 15 trees around the Isabella County Commission on Aging. That work was made possible thanks to a $4,050 grant from the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s Healthy Youth/Healthy Seniors Fund.

“Adding trees to that property was a great idea and we’re proud to assist with Trees NOW Isabella’s work,” says Amanda Schafer, foundation CEO.

The previous year, Trees NOW Isabella volunteers and students planted 15 large trees at Mt. Pleasant’s Fancher Elementary School, 801 S Kinney Ave. DTE Energy donated the trees for the project, conducted in collaboration with ReLeaf Michigan.

Trees NOW Isabella recently received an $8,820 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to plant trees next spring at Mt. Pleasant Middle School and Winn Elementary School in Shepherd.

For information about future plantings or to volunteer, visit Trees NOW Isabella’s website at Donations can be made at through United Way of Gratiot & Isabella Counties.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.