The Green Bay Packers First Downs for Trees program, currently in its third year, donated a total of 749 trees to 19 local communities in 2013 based on the team's 341 first downs last season.
The occasion was marked by planting trees in front of the Wisconsin Public Service office building in Green Bay on Thursday, May 30. Planting trees on the WPS property holds special meaning this year, as 39 ash trees had to be removed after an Emerald Ash Borer infestation. The beetle is responsible for the deaths of millions of native ash trees in several Northeast, Eastern and Midwestern states, including Wisconsin, and the trees planted there will help replace those that were lost.
First Downs for Trees is a cooperative effort with the Packers, the U.S. Forest Service, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Public Service. One of the Packers' Green Team initiatives, the program donates trees to participating Brown County communities based on the number of first downs scored by the Packers in the previous season.
This year, the program received a $48,000, two-year grant from the U.S. Forest Service as a part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which will be added to the existing $16,000 donated by the Packers. With the additional grant money, the program is able to plant more trees for each first down earned during the regular season. This is the second year that the U.S. Forest Service has been involved with the program.
Four nurseries, McKay Nursery in Waterloo, Meacham Nursery in Green Bay, Midpark Nursery in Fond du Lac and Silver Creek Nursery in Manitowoc, provided the trees. A combination of elm, linden, lilac, oak, honey locust, hackberry and flowering crab trees are among the species that will be planted this year.
The 19 communities that received the trees were Allouez, Ashwaubenon, Bellevue, Denmark, De Pere, Green Bay, Hobart, Howard, Lawrence, Ledgeview, Morrison, Pittsfield, Pulaski, Scott, Suamico, Wrightstown (village and town), Brown County and the Oneida Tribe.
"The Packers are looking forward to more trees going into our communities with the help of our first downs," said Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. "We are excited to further our efforts again with the additional help of the U.S. Forest Service."
For each first down, a monetary donation is also made. More than $45,000 has been donated to the Wisconsin DNR since the inception of the program.
First Downs for Trees complements the team's recycling and landfill diversion programs at Lambeau Field by targeting the carbon emitted by the Packers' air charters to road games, which is approximately 450 tons in a year.
Since 2011, more than 2,000 Packers trees have been planted, providing total lifetime benefits of more than $9 million through stormwater runoff reduction, CO2 reduction, energy savings, air quality improvement and property value increase. Over their lifetime, the tree benefits exceed the costs of planting and care, representing a 300 percent return on investment. Tree benefits increase over time, highlighting the importance of not only planting trees, but of providing ongoing maintenance and protection.