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Planting a million trees in the semi-arid desert to combat climate change

Tucson's ambitious tree planting goal aims to improve the health of residents, wildlife, and the watershed. Reflecting on her childhood, Tucson, Ariz., Mayor Regina Romero points to her father as the figure who lit an environmentalist fire within her. Any chance he'd get, Romero's father would take his wife and six kids to an 800-acre ranch in the Sierra Madre mountain range of Sonora, where they learned how to ride horses, direct cattle, and to respect the wildlife, such as bobcats and brown bears.

In February, Romero solidified a pledge to plant 1 million trees in the semi-arid desert city by 2030, when she joined the US Chapter Stakeholder Council, a group of public, private and nonprofit leaders committed to the restoration of 1 trillion trees globally. The U.S. chapter, including REI, National Forest Foundation, Amazon, the City of Dallas and the City of Tucson, have committed to more than 1 billion trees thus far. Romero's goal: adapting to a rapidly changing climate in the country's third fastest warming city "Climate change waits for no one," Romero said. "Without a liveable community, we have no Tucson." Currently, Tucson supports an estimated 1.6 million trees.

Trees need water. And the Southwest is in a drought. 2020 was Tucson's driest year on record, at only 4.17 total inches of rainfall. Thus, planting 1 million trees in the next decade has faced criticism.

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