P L E N T Y SUMMER 2019 Plenty Summer 2019-joomag copy | Page 45

GIVING TREES Montgomery Countryside Alliance’s new program launched to accelerate re-forestation in the County’s Reserve B Y C A R O L I N E TA Y LO R Executive Director, Montgomery Countryside Alliance T he Little Monocracy River ambles along through Bev and Dick Thom’s 57-acre farm in northern Montgomery County. This is a working farm, hosting sheep for fiber as well as providing highly sought after affordable farm acreage for lease. On this overcast spring afternoon a small group, some schooled in identifying trees and plants, some less species smart but enthusiastic, gather to survey the prime location for a pilot planting of several acres of the property’s stream corridor as part of a collaborative effort between Montgomery Countryside Alliance and Montgomery County Planning to re-forest portions of the County’s 93,000 acre Agri- cultural Reserve. Forests throughout the Re- serve have thinned due to age, disease, drought, floods, or harvesting over decades. The Re-Leaf pro- gram barely was inked before a number of land owners emerged with interest in participating. Planting trees, it seems, is a welcome thing. As the surveyors navigated the soft path between river and watercress laden springs, they were heralded by the cheerful ruckus of the spring peepers and wood toads. Soon enough the musical magic gave way to the not unexpected discovery of invasives­—plants such as Japanese stilt grass and insects such as emerald ash borer that have hitched their way from distant places Left: Program Chair Carole Bergmann shares tale of deer damage to new tree plantings, stressing the need for deer protection at the time of planting; above: Gardens by Garth crew place the deer guards after planting. and are now squeezing out native species, signifi- cantly damaging plant and wildlife diversity along the way. Native pollinators, critical for food production, have been hit particularly hard. Lead by expert arborist and Re-leaf chair Carole Bergmann, they pressed on, focused on finding good ground that will support several hundred trees. Just across the river Bergmann spies it—level and damp but not submerged, not in production, and adjacent to the river. Perfect. Bergmann notes the species that are thriving elsewhere onsite with emphasis on those that PLENTY I SUMMER GROWING 2019 45