116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Monarch Research is embarking on the fourth season of its native tree restoration initiative, Planting Forward, in a continued effort to help restore Linn County’s tree canopy that was badly damaged in the 2020 derecho.
The nonprofit purchased 15,600 trees for its fall season that will be split into three phases, Monarch Research co-founder Clark McLeod said. During the first phase, which opens Monday, Linn County landowners with at least 3 acres of woodlands can order between 25 and 150 trees from a spread of 32 native species, including oak and maple trees. A single tree costs $20 on average.
Monarch Research targets private landowners by partnering with businesses, schools, hospitals, neighborhoods and local governments to distribute trees to employees and their communities across Linn County. By making a diverse and native array of trees more available to the public, McLeod said, the nonprofit hopes to help ecosystems recover from the derecho and deforestation while bolstering habitat for insects and animals.
“We were already at a deficit before the derecho,” he said. “We not only have to recover from the derecho — we have to catch up.”
John Zakrasek, 70, a retired energy consultant, said the derecho demolished the woodlands on his 3-acre property in southeast Cedar Rapids. Most of his original trees were uprooted, split in half or bowed over into a crescent-moon shape following the storm.
After one of his few remaining trees fell merely 20 feet away from him, Zakrasek decided to fully revamp his forests through Planting Forward. During this spring’s planting season, he purchased 72 trees — and he said he plans to buy even more during this fall.
“These programs that recognize what we have to do to get our forests back have been an enormous help,” he said.
The Planting Forward initiative held its first planting season in 2021 and aims to plant 150,000 trees by 2026. To date, 44 organizations have participated in Planting Forward, along with 96 schools and 107 woodland owners. Between 3,000 and 4,5000 residents participate per planting season, McLeod said.
Monarch Research, which was formed in 2015 to increase native pollinator habitat and monarch populations in Linn County, has distributed 42,600 trees through its replanting initiative so far. By the end of 2022, that count is projected to surpass 50,000.
“Planting Forward exists because the community needs to replant their community,” McLeod said. “That's the only way to do it on private land because private landowners are in charge.”
Landowners can order trees online at the official Monarch Research website until Aug. 15, or until the 5,000 trees set aside for the season’s first phase run out. Ordered trees for the first phase have tentative distribution dates of Oct. 1 and Oct. 2.
Phase two will offer trees to private employers, hospitals and local governments, and phase three will offer trees to schools.
Brittney J. Miller is an environmental reporter for The Gazette and a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Comments: (319) 398-8370; firstname.lastname@example.org