In 1944, the United States was deeply entrenched in WWII. Thousands of our men were fighting in Europe and the Pacific, and here at home there was a real need for raw material to fuel our mills and produce the products needed both on the war front, as well as here at home.
Nine executives of the pulp and paper industry got together in 1943 to encourage extraction of timber from Wisconsin’s northwoods to keep the mills going and producing those things needed both here and abroad. With the success of the Pulp Wood Round Up event, they got an idea: If we can encourage the cutting of timber, why can’t we also encourage the planting of trees for a sustainable wood source to keep our mills running? And with that, Trees For Tomorrow was born on a snowy day in mid-February 1944.
With newspaper man, Mully Taylor, at the lead, the group forged five principals that would guide this new organization:
Provide a local self-sustaining wood supply for industry by encouraging small forest landowners to plant trees and practice management techniques.
Year-round employment from the woods to the mills
Stabilization of the tax base.
Better watershed protection
Enhancement of the resource for an expanding tourist business.
Basically, they wanted to restore the northwoods to its forested glory, be able to support their industries with a renewable resource, and provide recreational and educational opportunities to both residents and visitors.
In the early years, Trees For Tomorrow focused on landowner assistance, and distribution of tree seedlings that would re-forest the cut-over northwoods. By the 1950's, Trees For Tomorrow’s founders distributed 23,000,000 seedlings. The equivalent of approximately 25,000 contiguous acres of new forest land in northern Wisconsin. But, there was always an eye toward education.
In 1945 a group of 40 individuals representing all facets of education in Wisconsin came together to a vacant USFS training facility in Eagle River, built a decade before by the CCC, to map out the future. The following year, the “camp” as it was known then, became a permanent institution through a special use permit with the US Forest Service, and in the summer of 1946 welcomed its first visitors for conservation education.
TFT's founders understood the importance of sustainably managing our natural resources
Trees For Tomorrow focuses on preparing the next generation to become responsible stewards of our natural world. Every year TFT welcomes approximately 10,000 people to our campus every year. Some of our programs include skill builders and Road Scholar programs for adults. We also host events on campus such as our Forest Fest. The event brings more than 1,200 participants to campus each summer to learn about both the history and legacy of logging in the northwoods, and modern sustainable logging practices that are in use today.
While we offer educational experiences to everyone from very young children to senior citizens, our core programs are designed for the next generation and focus on the interconnectivity of forestry, wildlife, soils, water, and energy production, and how all of those elements are ultimately in the hands of humans. Our choices – including sound sustainable management – determine the ultimate outcome and health of our environment. Of the 10,000 people who come to campus every year, about 7,000 are school-aged children – k-12 – from Wisconsin, the upper peninsula of Michigan and Illinois.
We’ve come a long way since those early days of “camp” in Eagle River. Thanks to the support and active involvement of many donors and partners, today Trees For Tomorrow is an organization that is responsible for contributing a positive direct impact in the upper Great Lakes region.
Our forests are thick and healthy.
We’re funneling young people into careers in natural resources management.
And we’re turning out generations of young people who experience their connection to our environment, understand the values of sustainability and stewardship, and are prepared to make responsible decisions when it comes to sustainable management of our natural resources.
Through sustainability and stewardship, we are teaching the next generation how to use our resources wisely, with enough to support industry, and plenty left over for the wildlife, a healthy planet, and our own peace and enjoyment.
Fast forward: Our visitors still gather on that same USFS Training Facility, but the original five tenants of Trees For Tomorrow have long since been achieved, the distribution of seedlings has become an annual fundraiser, and landowner education has been left to other groups, state-wide, who specialize in that kind of assistance.