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The Power of Tree Huggers

By Jerry Dirks

What comes to mind when you think about trees? Trees are marvelous creations. Can you imagine a world without trees? Can you imagine Stillwater without trees? Each species has its own beauty. And some provide wonderful fruit, like the delicious apples produced in and around Stillwater.

Climate change is threatening Minnesota's urban and rural trees. Minnesota's climate is becoming warmer and wetter. Not all regions of our state are affected in the same way. Some are worse than others, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The change in climate is affecting where certain kinds of trees are able to grow. The warmer and wetter climate in Minnesota is proving to be unsuitable for some iconic Minnesota trees. In addition, the change in climate is allowing some pests to thrive and harm or kill some Minnesota trees.

Carbon is the culprit – essential for life but too much of a good thing means we have an air pollution problem. It is affecting the climate around the world, not just us. But of all 50 states, the climate of Minnesota is changing the fastest.

As if it were one of those “ah ha!” moments in a movie, the solution is at hand, it was there all along, but we didn’t see it. The fact is, one of the ways to fight climate change is through planting MORE trees. The right kinds of trees, of course, that can manage warmer, wetter climates. Trees absorb and sequester carbon. Healthy trees and healthy soil trap greenhouse gasses that otherwise would continue to warm the planet.

There are new issues to consider if you are planning to plant trees in Minnesota. Will they survive in the new climate? Are there pests/diseases that are attacking the species? Are they non-invasive native trees which will benefit the ecosystem?

In general, DNR Forestry experts expect Minnesota's climate to become less suitable for

aspen, paper birch, tamarack, and black spruce. On the other hand, it's projected to become more suitable for species such as American basswood, black cherry, northern red oak, bur oak, sugar maple, red maple, and eastern white pine.

Besides their beauty, fruit, and capacity to capture and store carbon, trees have other benefits. They reduce stormwater runoff by letting rain soak into the soil. They aid in purifying rainwater. Their shade keeps streets and homes cooler in the summer.

If you want to combat climate change and enjoy the other benefits of trees, plant a tree where you live. If that is not possible you can plant trees with your friends and neighbors.

Sustainable Stillwater MN is forming a new Tree Hugger Team that will be planting trees and working with the community to create tree hugger teams of their own. You can help. Join us! Send us an email to

Saturday, May 7th | 10:00 - 12:00 PM | Pine Point Regional Park


Sustainable Stillwater MN is a 501c3 nonprofit. Dedicated volunteers make our city a healthier, more eco-friendly place. Visit our website at

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