Western Reserve Land Conservancy marks banner year in land and tree conservation

As of the end of 2022, Western Reserve Land Conservancy recorded the permanent protection of more than 70,000 acres of public and private land in Ohio.

With the conservation of 2,715 acres at 36 properties in 2022, the Land Conservancy has now conserved 70,350 acres at 883 properties in 28 counties.

For context, 70,000 acres is an area 4,117 times larger than First Energy Stadium and 130% larger than the entire City of Cleveland.

<span class="content-image-text">Land Conservancy staff and volunteers host a tree planting in Cleveland</span>Land Conservancy staff and volunteers host a tree planting in Cleveland“This is a conservation milestone, a major accomplishment for our organization but an even greater asset for the people of Ohio now and for future generations,” Western Reserve Land Conservancy president and CEO Rich Cochran said in a statement. “To think that over three decades our organization has grown from a small group of concerned citizens wanting to preserve the beauty of the Chagrin River Valley to a national leader in conservation, preservation and restoration is simply amazing.”

To accelerate the pace of conservation, in 2018 the Land Conservancy embarked on $50 million in a fundraising campaign to “Conserve, Connect, & Sustain.” At the end of 2022, the organization has secured $47 million and anticipates meeting the full fundraising goal by June 30. 

“The Conserve, Connect, Sustain fundraising campaign will guarantee that the lands we protect today will remain protected for future generations,” said Cochran.

Additionally, the Land Conservancy’s Reforest Our City program plants, distributes and maintains thousands of trees in Cleveland. In 2015, the City of Cleveland released the Cleveland Tree Plan, and the news was dire: Cleveland’s tree canopy had dwindled to only 18%, and would drop below 14% by 2040. Without immediate action, the Forest City would no longer have an urban forest.

In 2022, Western Reserve Land Conservancy planted 254 trees at 23 different planting sites, with 54% of the trees planted in the program’s target neighborhoods—areas with little tree canopy, high poverty rates, and a history of racial and economic discrimination.

During these community tree plantings 202 volunteers donated more than 1,080 volunteer hours. These newly planted trees will not only restore the environment to a healthier state but improve neighborhoods and the lives of residents as well, creating a greener, healthier, and beautiful community.

Each new tree planted moves one step closer to reversing Cleveland’s tree canopy loss and provides tremendous health and climate benefits. In addition to planting and distributing trees, the Land Conservancy is a leader in nurturing trees (weekly watering and mulching) for at least three years after they are planted to ensure their growth success. 

Over the next 20 years, the trees planted and given away by Western Reserve Land Conservancy in 2022 will:

  • Sequester over 235,400 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent
  • Intercept over 1,660,600 gallons of stormwater.
  • Remove over 975 pounds of air pollutants including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter.
  • Save neighborhoods over $5,300 annually in fuel and electricity costs.
  • Contribute to the reduction of noise pollution and the heat island effect in the City of Cleveland.
“Planting trees in an urban setting relies upon partnership and trust with each community,” Elizabeth Grace, who serves as chair of the Cleveland Tree Coalition member group and as director of urban fundraising at the Land Conservancy, said in a statement. “Our organizational ability to develop and maintain genuine partnerships with the neighbors, CDCs, and community leaders is the key to our success. We have many more trees to plant and maintain, but we are on our way towards a healthier and greener Cleveland.”