Saving The Environment – One Tree At A Time – With TreePeople

When I first heard of TreePeople, I was wondering if it was an organization for people who love trees or if it was a secret organization of the “Ents” from Lord of the Rings.  It turns out the former is correct, and the efforts of TreePeople are all about inspiring the people of Los Angeles to plant and care for trees. Their work becomes more important as the city continues to grow and we pave over much of its green beauty. I have always been a nature lover and have passed this trait down to my family, so that with each generation, we continue to respect the Earth and do our part to sustain her beauty. Nature and motherhood go hand in hand.

I noticed that as the world begins to rely more and more on technology, nature takes a back seat. It’s like we think the only way forward is by digitizing everything and spreading the concrete jungle as far as the eye can see. What so many fail to realize is just how critical trees are to our survival. Apart from the fact that plants provide the very air that we need, there are many reasons to turn LA green.

Concrete scorches in the sun—it doesn’t provide the same safe haven as lush green trees.  At the same time, the more rivers we pave over, the less water we have available because it cannot soak into the ground where we need it. We need to replace the concrete jungle with a green one and let nature do its job; that way we can restore healthy soil, conserve water and harvest the rain.

I strive to pass these ideals onto my children, which is why on a brisk fall morning I found myself and my daughter in the Santa Monica Mountains at a TreePeople restoration event. Surrounded by nature, we were instructed in how to remove invasive species and replace them with natives, making the mountains habitable to local animals and insects and stronger in the face of disasters such as fire. Thrilled, we chose the tree that we would plant that morning and got going!

My daughter and I dug our hands and tools into the earth, taking care to follow each step we learned earlier in the morning to give the tree the best chance of living a long, healthy life. Just we were planting a tree into the Earth, I was planting the seed of caring for this planet in my daughter’s heart.

They say that the Santa Monica Mountains are the lungs of Los Angeles because they provide so much oxygen to surrounding areas far and wide. We were proud to know we helped people to breathe a little easier, that we made our local mountains greener and stronger, that we gave places for native animals and plants to live, and that we helped to build and clean our waterways between the Santa Monica Mountains and the ocean.

It felt good taking care of our Mother Earth, just as I take care of my daughter and my mother took care of me. This Mother’s Day, TreePeople is offering an opportunity to do the same with a tree dedication. Show the mom in your life that she’s your world by giving her the Earth. Give the gift of trees.

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Join #KidsToParks Day and Discover Mother Nature’s Biodiversity

Has your child ever wanted to sit in the middle of the trail and inspect bugs, or count how many bright yellow flowers line the neighborhood pond? Well, the National Park Trust, in association with National Geographic Kids wants to give them a chance to channel their inner naturalist.

This Saturday, May 21, 2016 marks the 6th annual Kids to Parks Day, encouraging families all across the U.S. to get outside into the great outdoors to play, protect and preserve our wonderful natural landscape. Organized by the National Park Trust and supported by a large group of regional and local groups and organizations, Kids to Parks Day is just one way to instill in our children an active lifestyle full of exploration and discovery.

kids-to-parks5

For the past decade, leading up to the National Park Service’s Centennial Celebration, the NPS and National Geographic have been leading BioBlitz community events at a different national park each year. And the biggest BioBlitz blitz is happening now, with over 250 scheduled for 2016, culminating in a cornerstone nationwide event to celebrate Kids To Parks Day.

If you’ve never participated in a BioBlitz, you have a lot to look forward to this Saturday, May 21st, because in Southern California there are four biodiversity festivals to choose from. Join scientists, students, teachers and your community as we work together to identify, count, and log the local diversity of our natural places, animals, plants, fungi and other organisms.

Want to join a BioBlitz? Here’s what you need to know:

Joshua Tree National Park
Ethno-botanical BioBlitz
May 21, 2016 from 9am – 4pm
Joshua Tree National Park Oasis Visitor Center
74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA

Channel Islands National Park
BioBlitz and Biodiversity Festival
May 21, 2016 from 9am – 4pm
Channel Islands National Park visitor center in the Ventura Harbor
1901 Spinnaker Drive Ventura, CA 93001

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Biodiversity and Science Festival
May 21, 2016 from 10am – 4pm
Paramount Ranch
2903 Cornell Road, Agoura Hills, CA, 91301

Cabrillo National Monument
Biodiversity Festival
May 21, 2016 rom 9am – 8pm
Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr., San Diego, Ca. 92025

Don’t live in Southern California? Check out National Geographic’s BioBlitz events map to join forces in your own community!

[Family Volunteering Series Pt. 3] Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project

Only 10% of California’s wetlands still exist today and Ballona is the last remaining coastal salt marsh in Los Angeles County. As we sat on its serene bank listening to the call of endangered terns and the buzzing of native bees, I couldn’t help but feel saddened by its destruction and uplifted by the hands of more than 75,000 volunteers working diligently for more than 35 years to protect and restore its precious ecosystem.

Family Volunteering at Ballona Wetlands
Finding solitude at the Ballona Wetlands

The Friends of Ballona Wetlands has an award-winning volunteer restoration program geared towards hands-on restoration that is perfectly suited for families who are looking to get outdoors and get dirty! Similar to our TreePeople experience, we headed out early on a Saturday morning, lunches packed, sun block applied, ready to roll up our sleeves and dig into some dirt!

Ballona boasts an almost 600 acre protected ecological reserve nestled smack dab in the middle of urban sprawl and is home to about 300 bird species and hundreds of species of plants. Unfortunately, large swathes of its delicate landscape have been overrun by invasive, non-native plants such as the South American Pampa Grass and Australian Ice Plant. 

Family Volunteering at Ballona Wetlands
Removing Australian Ice Plants

A primary focus of the restoration project is removal of these non-native plants and in the last 8 years over eight thousand four hundred cubic yards of invasive plants, trash and debris have been successfully cleared by the caring hands of the LA community. Meanwhile, volunteers work diligently to plant native vegetation back into the wetlands’ rare and expansive network of dunes, highlands and estuaries.

Family Volunteering at Ballona Wetlands
Hiking and Bird-Watching on the Ballona Creek Trail
This program also offers its volunteers a rich and vibrant educational experience complete with docents and printed material to help us to understand the importance of supporting community environmental stewardship within these unique wetlands. 

Family Volunteering at Ballona Wetlands
Using provided educational materials as a guide

V thoroughly enjoyed referring to the diagram of commonly-spotted ducks and birds who nest in the marsh. As we hiked along the ridge we were able to revel in the elegant flight of a red-tailed hawk and discover what distinguishes the Great Blue Heron from a Snowy Egret. What a treat!

The importance of restoring and maintaining Ballona is far-reaching and guaranteed to give back to future generations ten-fold. Preserving our wetlands is vital for Earth and our well-being on so many different levels. They provide a place for migrating birds to rest and refuel as they make their long journey across thousands of miles, from the most southerly point of South America to the northernmost tundra of Alaska. Tantamount to humans, though is the undeniable significance of the wetlands’ ability to filter toxins and heavy metals through its vegetation, in turn sending cleaner water back into Los Angeles’ aquifers and rivers.

Family Volunteering at Ballona Wetlands
Serenity at the Ballona Wetlands

For our family, learning the seriousness of our effects on the environment and taking responsibility for the destruction, caused by us, to our most fragile ecosystems by taking part in amazing programs like these can only help lead us on our quest to understanding the true importance of environmental stewardship. It allows us to give thanks and reminds us what is most valuable in our lives; each other and the natural world that envelops and supports us.