May 13, 2024

Planting trees in Michigan

Just in time for Arbor Day 2024, some Clēnera staff got to take part in a fun tree sale event in Michigan. Sam Smith, Clēnera Project Manager, joined Cass County Conservation District for its annual tree sale. The sale helps fund the CCCD’s operations throughout the rural county and is led by Korie Blyveis.

“The conservation districts are an underfunded program with a big mission to protect our natural resources,” said Blyveis, the District’s Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Program Administrator. "Every community in the County has various conservation practice needs & interests a need, but the districts are short of funding and currently don’t have the capacity to do as much as they would like. This tree sale funds the program’s general operations. Eventually we’d like it to fund special habitat programs or water quality monitoring and educational programs.”

The Conservation District serves a critical role for the local ecology. It helps reduce soil runoff with the Soil Erosion & Sedimentation Control (SESC) program, educates and assists with removal of invasive species (CISMA program), and works with farmers encouraging best management practices through the MAEAP & new Regenerative Agriculture program. The district can also provide technical assistance in areas such as installing rain gardens, native shorelines, and pollinator plantings with native species to improve habitat and conditions for wildlife.

When the team at Clēnera heard about the tree sale and its critical importance to fund the district, it was no question they would participate.

“It has been great to get plugged in with the great people of Cass County,” Smtih said. “It’s a tight-knit community where everyone knows each other, and everyone pitches in to help out. The tree sale was a great chance to meet many of those folks and help a worthy cause.”

Cass County is the site of a future 184MWdc solar farm, Gemstone. The project is currently in development, with plans to be operational in the Fall of 2026. That’s what brought Clēnera and Blyveis together in the first place. As administrator, Byveis is making sure the project will meet the requirements for soil erosion and sedimentation control. She has also been an advocate for wildlife-friendly fencing, which the project will incorporate to keep migratory paths of smaller animals, such as the threatened and endangered Blanding’s & box turtles, intact.

Some of the plants ready for sale

“Clēnera has been good to work with,” she said. “I was surprised when Sam wanted to come out for the tree sale and impressed when he rolled up his sleeves and actually helped out when he got here.”

Sam joined a group of local volunteers and local businesses from the surrounding area preparing trees for sale by sorting the deliveries from the nurseries to wrapping and bagging individual trees with moss and water.  The trees were then sorted into each order that CCCD received from the local public. It also gave him a good look at trees the Gemstone project will be buying and planting on-site.

“We were looking to plant some trees on the project site,” said Sam. “The fact we get to do that while supporting this local conservation group is incredible.”

Sam bought 150 trees from this sale. When construction wraps up, the Gemstone project will be planting roughly 2,000 trees around the perimeter of the solar facility to provide a more attractive appearance from the surrounding roads. Trees are selected to be both fast-growing and locally approved species to help promote a healthy local ecosystem.

More trees bundled and ready for sale