Trees for Tomorrow history dates back to the 1940’s
By Lori Adler
Trees for Tomorrow has humble beginnings. The organization in Eagle River is now known for its education efforts in natural resources and ecology, but it was originally created for a different, though somewhat related, purpose.
The site, and many of the buildings, was originally built in the 1930’s as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC was a work relief program for young, unemployed, unmarried men. The program, which employed over two million men between the ages of 18-25, ran between 1933 and 1942. The main purpose of the CCC was to conserve natural resources, and in Wisconsin, this included the building of many state parks and forest facilities. The 40-acre site in Eagle River was primarily used as a training camp for CCC supervisors and managers.
Once the Civilian Conservation Corps ended service in 1942, the Eagle River site sat unused for a few years, until a group of nine business men had an idea. These business men, all involved in the pulp and paper industry, saw a great need for raw materials due to World War II, and as operators of the mills in northern Wisconsin, wanted to be part of the war effort and supply the nation with needed wood products. Led by newsman Melvin “Mully” Taylor, they decided that the creation of a reforestation program would help to sustain this valuable natural resource. And so in 1944, Trees for Tomorrow was born, promoting forestry efforts, such as seedling planting, and providing education in forest management and planning.
During its early years, Trees for Tomorrow distributed 23 million seedlings, which is the equivalent of 25,000 acres of new forest. And while the forests quickly became healthy once again, Trees for Tomorrow continued its education efforts by delving deeper into all aspects of natural resource education. With Taylor at the helm until the 1980’s, Trees for Tomorrow grew into a premier education center for conservation and ecology.
While seedling distribution still happens every year, though now it is part of the annual fundraising program, the center offers so much more. Trees for Tomorrow, now in its 75th year, utilizes its resources to educate adults and children in ecology, conservation, and general appreciation of the environment and Wisconsin’s natural resources. About 10,000 people visit Trees for Tomorrow every year, and while there are education programs for all ages, the main focus is on school-aged children, which account for over 70% of the annual visitors. Educating the next generation has become the core value for Trees for Tomorrow. Students not only learn an appreciation for nature but also how to be good stewards of the land and how to create a balance between human and wildlife needs.
Those who have had the opportunity to participate in the many programs offered at Trees for Tomorrow are richer from the experience. And though from humble beginnings, Trees for Tomorrow has been and continues to be a path toward conservation and protection of the natural world, from the past and into the future.