Rooted in Purpose: NCWF’s Chapter Impact for Tree Canopy Wildlife Habitat


“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” – Richard Powers, The Overstory

Trees are not just silent witnesses to the passing seasons; they comprise vital ecosystems that support a myriad of wildlife in North Carolina.

NCWF’s Community Wildlife Chapters are engaged in enhancing these forest ecosystems across the state through tree planting projects and invasive species removals. While these projects have a broad scope in increasing the health and diversity of North Carolina ecosystems as a whole, bolstering the state’s forests and treetop canopies is a crucial outcome of many of these projects.

March, 2024, NCWF highlights Wildlife in the Overstory. While there is a multitude of wildlife species observable at ground level, many rely on the shelter and resources provided by trees, particularly those thriving in their canopies. These tree canopies can create an entirely distinct habitat for wildlife, many of which have evolved and adapted to depend upon them. However, these habitats – and the wildlife within them – face increasing threats from deforestation and habitat fragmentation, much of which results from human development and changes in land use.

NCWF Tree Programs Programs and Impact

At the heart of NCWF’s Community Wildlife Chapter tree projects are the passionate volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to restore and improve wildlife habitat across the state. These tree plantings primarily focus on public lands, particularly North Carolina parks and preserves.

Since the beginning of 2022, NCWF has planted nearly 9,000 native trees, with 1,855 already planted this year!

Additionally, NCWF hosts several programs that directly address trees and the habitat they provide for wildlife.

  • Bradford Pear Bounty NC is a partnership between N.C. Wildlife Federation, N.C. State Extension, N.C. Urban Forest Council and N.C. Forest Service to help control the spread of invasive Bradford pears by removing them from communities and replacing them with native alternatives.
  • NCWF’s Clean and Green program emphasizes a key habitat restoration principle: remove what doesn’t belong and replace it with what does. When removing litter and invasive species, it is critical to replace them with native plants. This serves to discourage the intrusion of new invasive plant species to the area, creates and restores wildlife habitat, and buffers storm water runoff and sediment load in waterways.
  • Since 1973, the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife programs have been educating and empowering people to turn their yards and gardens into thriving habitats for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Planting native plants and trees is an integral part of these programs, providing wildlife with food, cover, and places to raise young. By registering your yard as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, you can join with thousands of others across the state in increasing wildlife habitat connectivity on private lands.

NCWF Chapter Work for Wildlife in the Overstory

In celebration of NCWF’s work in increasing forest and tree canopy habitat across the state, here are a few spotlighted Community Wildlife Chapter projects directly addressing tree wildlife habitat.

NCWF and Mainspring Conservation Trust planted 1,400 livestakes (native trees and shrubs) in Bryson City on Darnell Farms. The plant installation helped stabilize a conservation easement shoreline and promote a healthy habitat for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife species.

Concord Wildlife Alliance volunteers led a tree planting where 30 trees were planted at McGee Park, a frequented public park along the Carolina Thread Trail. 15 Boys and Girls Club kids joined the volunteers and learned the ins and outs of native tree planting. Trees planted included redbuds, serviceberries, maples, pines and oaks.

Charlotte Wildlife Stewards joined Charlotte-Mecklenburg Stormwater Services volunteers for a tree planting at Chantilly Ecological Sanctuary to benefit the local wildlife and people frequenting this picturesque park. Seventy native trees were planted, including tulip poplars, river birches, black gums, flowering dogwoods and more. Volunteers ranged from teenagers to adults, and all enjoyed the planting on this chilly spring afternoon.

NCWF, Wake County Parks & Open Space and South Wake Conservationists returned to Turnipseed Nature Preserve to plant nearly 100 native trees and shrubs in place of the invasive species removed.

N.C. Wildlife Federation, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Stormwater Services and Charlotte Public Tree Fund gathered for a native habitat planting. Over 100 volunteers planted 395 trees to support native wildlife and beautify the Charlotte community.

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation partnered with Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space to plant 75 shortleaf pine trees (Pinus echinata) at Turnipseed Nature Preserve thanks to the help of 32 volunteers. Afterwards, the crew helped tackle the invasive periwinkle (Vinca minor) that has been running rampant throughout the preserve.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) celebrated Earth Week with several events on and around the Qualla Boundary encouraging knowledge of environmental and wildlife issues. NCWF helped supply plants that were given to EBCI tribal members.

The Tri-County Conservationists hosted a tree planting at Brumley Nature Preserve in Chapel Hill in an effort to restore a wetland site impacted by the emerald ash borer. The volunteer crew planted nearly 200 native trees!

Volunteers with the Charlotte Wildlife Stewards planted 60 native trees in a flood plain in partnership with Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Services. The trees planted will help improve air and water quality, reduce erosion, sequester carbon and provide critical habitat for wildlife along the stream corridor. Big thanks to the crew of nearly 40 volunteers who embraced the mud and enjoyed a fun workday in the outdoors!

Volunteers met at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge’s Millennium Forest to plant Atlantic white cedar seedlings. This is part of an ongoing project to convert 12 acres of what was previously converted farm fields into Atlantic white cedar forest to help restore this tree within its historic range. Here, it will provide crucial wildlife habitat and opportunities for recreation and education for the surrounding community.

Kids from the Fuquay Varina High School 4-H Spatial Science Club joined staff from NCWF and Wake County Planning, Development and Inspections and Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space to plant around 300 baby longleaf pine trees at the future Beech Bluff County Park recently. This planting was conducted to address Wake County’s tree canopy, as assessed through the Wake County Tree Canopy Assessment.

Written by:

Bates Whitaker, Communications & Marketing Manager


– Bates Whitaker, NCWF Communications & Marketing Manager


Luke Bennett


– Luke Bennett, NCWF Conservation Coordinator

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