September 21, 2020 3 min read

Meet the Tree Planter: Zach from Colorado

A guest essay from our tree planting community.

Part of the I Am A Tree Planter series.

My name is Zach Clark-Lee and I am a tree farmer. I work for The Colorado State Forest Service Seedling Nursery in Fort Collins Co. While in school, I took a tour at the nursery and immediately fell in love with their mission and passion. I started as a volunteer in February 2014 and, 5 weeks later, was offered a paid position. Within 1 year, I began training to become the Container Production Supervisor, which is the job I currently do (although this isn’t the only hat I wear). I’m also the volunteer coordinator for the nursery, a licensed drone flier, tree planter, and tour guide. And giving tours is how I learned about One Tree Planted. Since then, I’ve grown trees for their projects and met amazing people on their team.

At first, my motivation was completely selfish: I wanted to be outside. 

But the more I learned, the more I realized how important my work — and that of the nursery — is. We sell roughly 500,000 native trees, perennials, shrubs, and grasses every year. These plants have applications like post fire/flood restoration, wildlife habitat, erosion control, living snow fences, windbreaks, and more. I’m now driven by a purpose, a want, and need, to make our world a better place — a place that my kids can be proud to call home, and a father to look up to. 

Tree planters and One Tree Planted staff at the Colorado state forest service nursery

Home is an interesting concept. After a long day on our 130-acre farm, I go home. But the nursery is my second residence. I get to come out to the farm every day and nurture our plants to help people and Mother Nature. I arrive at 6:45 a.m. and get our crew rolling for the day. Depending on the day, we might be seeding, transplanting, weeding, or getting orders ready for distribution. 

We grow and sell trees for a lot of reasons. Some of our plants go to areas that have been impacted by devastating fires or floods. Some may be for habitat rehab and corridors for wildlife like birds, lions, bobcats, pollinators, and more. We also have specific projects for a variety of conservation efforts like helping reservations restore their land, or farmers/land owners with windbreaks or living snow fences to better manage their properties. Our plants help Colorado and the surrounding states get as healthy and beautiful as we all know they can be. 

Health and beauty is one reason we do our own plantings, too. We plant species on our property for seed increase when seeds may be hard to get our hands on. In addition, I have started my own plantings on the “High Park” burn scar, just outside of Fort Collins. I saw this site, realized that not many people were planting there, and took it upon myself to change that. With the help of One Tree Planted, I was able to purchase the trees from the nursery and get started. Planting is a passion of mine and I can’t wait for this pandemic to end so I can return to the forest with my volunteers. 

Volunteers are amazing people and a certain kind of breed. They’re happy to get out in the hot sun and traverse all kinds of terrain just to get a tree in the ground. Volunteers don’t do it for the money — they do it because they’re passionate and want to help. My advice? Get out and volunteer for an hour, or 2, or 10, or a week. Do it until passion slaps you across the face. You might just discover something in you that you never knew you had. One Tree Planted has several ways you can get involved to help global reforestation!

I’ve been doing this work for almost 7 years now, and I don’t think I could be happier doing anything else. 

I’ve been able to grow and plant trees for the world’s health. I’ve also been able to help others find their own path. I’ve seen amazing wild life like mountain lions, bobcats, eagles, hawks, and owls. And I’ve had the amazing opportunity to help our world grow. I hope I can pass my torch to future generations with a smile, and know we are in safe hands. I hope my passion rubs off on people from all walks of life. I want my work to instill hope in others. “Trees are the answer” and don’t let anyone forget it.

Are you a tree planter, too? Share your story today!

p.s. Don't you think Zach is awesome enough to be on a billboard? We agree.

tree planter

We plant trees on 4 continents around the world. Want to choose where yours are planted?

by Zach Clark-Lee

Container Production Manager, CSFS