250K Tree Day to Help Tennessee Thrive with Trees this Winter


Photo: Tennessee Environmental Council

Photo: Tennessee Environmental Council


Trees enhance our quality of life by providing a myriad of multi-generational benefits to both our environment and the economy. According to the Tennessee Environmental Council:

  • More than two million acres of Tennessee’s native forests have been cut and more than 500 thousand acres converted to other uses.

  • Studies indicate communities with more trees have less crime.

  • Planting 30 trees each year will offset the greenhouse gases from your car and home.

  • In 50 years one tree provides $130,750 in total benefits including oxygen, air pollution control and stormwater drainage.

Tennessee is one of the nation’s most biodiverse inland states. Since 1970 the Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC) has advocated for the conservation and improvement of Tennessee’s environment, communities, and public health. A major component of that effort has been the Tennessee Tree Project, formed in 2007 with the goal of planting 1 million native trees statewide. So far, it has facilitated the planting of 540,000 native trees. Following 100K Tree Day in 2017, where 20,000 volunteers planted 100,000 trees, 250K Tree Day was launched in 2018, and involved 28,000 volunteers planting 180,000 trees statewide. At least one tree was planted in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties, as well as in 16 counties of neighboring states. The economic value of the volunteer service involved was estimated at $1,400,000.

According to the TEC, as these trees mature, they should provide 434 acres of new tree canopy. Based on a 70% survival rate of seedlings, over the next 50 years their contribution to air and water quality, as well as flood control, is expected to have a $7.8 billion economic value. They are expected to intercept 6.3 billion gallons of rainfall, reducing flooding and improving water quality. In addition to a tree’s canopy breaking the fall of rainwater, its roots remove nutrients that may be harmful to water quality. Leaves that fall to the ground form an organic layer that further reduces runoff, and thus soil erosion, street flooding, and stream sedimentation.

These trees are also expected to remove 109,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. In addition to this direct benefit, trees shade houses and office buildings, which reduces the need for air conditioning. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the summertime cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equal to ten room-size air conditioners running 20 hours a day. These trees can potentially provide from 50 to over 200 years of economic and environmental benefits.

You can take part in the largest tree planting event in America when the Tennessee Environmental Council hosts this year’s 250K Tree Day on March 23rd! Now is the time to act if you want trees for your own property or for a local riparian restoration project or such. All you need to do is to reserve your trees here by March 10, ordering as many bundles of 4 trees as you wish to plant, choose a nominal donation amount upon checkout, and select the local pick-up location and day/time that’s most convenient.  See a map of locations in the greater Chattanooga region here. Then, plant your trees on March 23 - 250K Tree Day.

Encourage your friends to help you plant, or to reserve their own trees. If you don’t have a place to plant your own trees, you may gift trees to others who can plant them. You can even participate if you’re out of state, as long as you’re willing to drive to one of the pick-up locations.  

Tree species offered:

-Virginia, loblolly, or shortleaf pine. Unlike deciduous trees, which shed their leaves in winter, pines are an evergreen. The loblolly pine is the leading commercial timber tree in the Southeast.

-Northern red oak. Fast growing, easy to transplant, and tolerant of urban conditions, the Northern red oak is popular as a shade tree throughout the eastern U.S.

-Eastern redbud. The Eastern redbud is commonly seen in forested areas of Tennessee and beyond, and is one of the first trees to bloom in spring. Fast-growing but only reaching about 30 feet in height, the redbud is a great choice of landscape tree for locations where you don’t want a larger tree.

-Wild plum (or similar native fruit tree). The American plum grows as a large shrub or small tree, reaching heights of up to 15 feet and producing tasty fruit.

Find much more information about these and other species here.

Besides the obvious value to humans that trees provide, they’re also beneficial for wildlife. They provide cover, nesting sites, and food for a wide variety of birds and small mammals.  

The trees are available for anyone who has a place to plant them, including individuals, families, schools, businesses, churches, and city officials, as well as local, state, and national parks. The more people that get involved in this event, the more our communities will enjoy the benefits provided by trees.

The TEC recommends fall and early spring as the the most favorable times of year for planting trees. Their Tree Help Guide gives step-by-step planting instructions. You may also email them at tec@tectn.org with your questions.

Learn more about the Tennessee Tree Project and other work of the Tennessee Environmental Council, including ways you can get involved, here.


Bob Butters is an outdoor writer, photographer, and landscaper. A lifelong naturalist, as well as a hiker, mountain biker, and paddler, he has been exploring the outdoors in the Chattanooga area since 1980. Bob lives with his wife in the beautiful Sequatchie Valley, just west of Chattanooga, and publishes the blog Nickajack Naturalist.