LONGMONT — Think about this: Most of the trees you see in the flatlands of Boulder County were deliberately planted by someone.
And for more than 30 years, the Longmont and Boulder Valley conservation districts have helped area farmers and residents acquire many of those trees cheaply through an annual sale of seedlings.
On Friday morning, a steady stream of customers picked up 35,000 seedling trees they ordered through the program earlier this year — varieties such as privet, pine and poplar — at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.
Under the rules of the tree sale, buyers must own at least 2 acres, must agree not to resell the trees and can’t use them solely for decoration. They also must have another role in improving the environment.
Many people plant the trees as windbreaks in the plains areas, while others use them to attract wildlife or screen out their neighbors. The trees slow erosion, absorb water that would otherwise run off and even reduce the wind-chill on homes, lowering heating costs, experts said.
Wendy Carmichael bought 30 seedlings to plant around her home off Weld County Road 13 and Colo. Highway 66. She said she has planted about 200 trees and shrubs over the last eight years.
“They’re just windbreaks, mainly, but we enjoy the wildlife they attract,” Carmichael said.
She allowed, however, that there’s another reason for her yearly plantings: “Preparing for the future, blocking people out as the houses come down the hill.”
The number of trees sold by the conservation districts has varied widely over the years. One year in the 1970s, the districts sold about 120,000 seedlings from the old fairgrounds at what is now Roosevelt Park.
Advances in tree husbandry mean more of the seedlings flourish. That means the district is selling fewer trees, but more of them are surviving, according to sale organizers. That’s in large part because of free horticultural advice from local master gardeners and the Colorado State Forest Service, which grows the seedlings.
“It’s not a whole lot when you realize that we cover Boulder County, Weld County, parts of Larimer County,” said Don Graffis, a soil scientist with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, which oversees the soil districts.
The trees are sold in lots of about 30 seedlings, and must be ordered ahead of time. Each seedling costs about $1.
Some of the customers Friday planned to plant the trees in the mountains above Jamestown to control erosion caused by the October 2003 Overland Fire.
Local television talk show host Aaron Harber bought about 8,000 seedlings this year, making him the largest customer. Harber said he planned to plant the trees on his 320-acre farm called Golden Run outside Erie. He has planted about 4,000 trees over the years.
“Aesthetically, as an environmentalist and a tree lover, I was and remain excited about the idea of adding several thousand trees and shrubs to the area,” Harber told the Times-Call via e-mail Friday. “It is one way I can make a contribution to the community, and it is something I hope to continue doing for a number of years.”
Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.