Importance of trees to be highlighted in tribute
The Grants Pass Daily Courier
by Barbara Hahn

Trees are an important part of everyday life. They provide wood for homes, tools and musical instruments and pulp for paper. Trees provide shade, clean the air, and offer habitat for wildlife.

And its time that those who plant trees be honored, explains Wayne Fitzpatrick, who has planned a “Tree planters Tribute” which will be displayed at the Pacific Northwest Museum of Natural History.

“This is part of an educational awareness of the importance of trees” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a tribute to tree planters and to trees.”

The tribute estimated to cost between $12,000 and $15,000, will consist of three slate panels, with each panel more than three feet wide by five feet tall. A relief carving on the slate, done by a local artist, will depict a tree planter as well as the transition a forest makes from newly planted to mature stands of trees.

“People don’t know how hard tree planting work is” Fitzpatrick says. “It’s a laborious, dirty job.”

Fitzpatrick knows what he’s talking about. For nearly 20 years, he’s worked in forests from Southern Oregon to Idaho, planting trees for the U.S. Forest Service and private contractors.

“The majority of the slopes are steep,” he says. “And before the drought years the work was steep, wet and muddy. It rained on you every day.”

The history of intensive tree planting in Northwest forests probably begins with the Civilian Conservation Corps, which during the depression years, employed out-of-work men from across the country. Many were sent west to plant trees, he said.

By the late 1960s tree-planting cooperatives sprang up and secured Forest Service contracts. With tree bags strapped to their backs and hoe-dads in hand, workers planted mullions of seedlings in local forests.

Along with the private contractors, the tribute also meant to honor individual tree-planters, from children in the community groups, who get out and plant trees, Fitzpatrick said.

“As far as I know, there hasn’t been a dedication to tree planters,” he said, adding that the project is planned to be completed by next summer.

Fitzpatrick got the idea for the tribute about five years ago, but it was local teacher Deborah Murphy who urged him forward with the project.

“If it wasn’t for her, this wouldn’t be happening,” he said.

Donations, which are tax deductible, also can be sent to the “Tree Planters Statue Fund,” P.O. Box 1312, Cave Junction, OR 97523

For those unable to donate, Fitzpatrick has a simple request: Plant a tree in your lifetime,” he says

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