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Tree Group In Manistee County Fights Climate Change With Old Trees

A group from Manistee County dedicated to preserving old trees is planting redwoods and sequoias in Oregon this week. The trees cloned by the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in Copemish include clones of a coastal redwood with a trunk 35 feet in diameter.

The group's founder David Milarch says this project is meant to be a solution to global climate change. That's because sequoias and redwoods take so much carbon out of the atmosphere. Milarch says these trees grow fast and ancient redwoods can reach a total weight of 1,000 tons.

"40 percent of it's carbon, 400 tons dry weight of carbon per tree. That's a lot of carbon."

Milarch's group has cloned more than 30 old-growth redwoods and sequoias. Archangel and its predecessors have cloned numerous old-growth tree species over the last two decades, many in Michigan. The project started as a way to preserve tree genetics that might be superior based on the longevity of the trees.

Bill Libby is a scientific advisor on the project. Libby taught tree genetics at University of California, Berkeley. He has been growing coastal redwoods in his backyard for decades.

Libby says not only do these trees grow large quickly, but they also hold that carbon longer because they can live for thousands of years. A dead tree releases the carbon back into the atmosphere as it decomposes. Libby says there are some trees that grow as fast. That includes eucalyptus prized for making toilet paper. Redwoods, on the other hand, are often turned into finish lumber and preserved.

"Redwood stump will last for centuries because of its very durable hardwood."

Coastal redwoods have a limited range but sequoias are found around the world. There are even a few growing along the Lake Michigan shoreline near Manistee. They were planted there and Libby says it was a big surprise to see them doing well. Archangel has cloned the sequoias in Manistee but Bill Libby says it would probably be better in Michigan to plant a native tree.