By: Brenda Lee Sieglitz
Senior Manager – Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership
Assistant Director – Making History Campaign
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

I start many conversations with “My background is in business.” I never used to have to do this because I worked in business. My background is varied. If you take a peek at my LinkedIn (go ahead, you know you want to) you will see I’ve been a successful and failed business owner, construction project manager, advertising sales executive, receptionist, automotive service rep and if you go back far enough there’s some cashier and food service jobs in there too. However, over the past 3+ years I’ve served at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation managing our Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership and I have often felt it necessary to bring up my business background in order to explain why supply and demand are such important aspects to the success of environmental restoration.

It’s one of the brilliant reasons the Foundation had to hire someone with a business background combined with a passion for ecological restoration. As a Pennsylvania Master Naturalist, I served in countless volunteer roles in my local community but had never taken a full-time paid role in conservation. The goal of our 10 Million Trees Partnership is to ensure we have enough native trees available to plant throughout Pennsylvania, primarily the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and to make sure we have enough willing landowners in Pennsylvania who want trees planted on their properties. Hence, supply and demand. Our goals are closely tied to the Chesapeake Bay Blueprint to ensure Pennsylvania meets our pollution reductions in the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. Pennsylvania provides half of the freshwater that flows into the Chesapeake Bay and trees are our best solution for pollution reduction goals.

For the past three years I’ve worked with a team to build relationships with tree nurseries across Pennsylvania. We created a “Grower-Supply” workgroup within the partnership that meets regularly with the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association and several growers. The workgroup gives these vendors an opportunity to address industry needs and helps us to look at the challenges ahead. These aren’t always easy conversations, but they are necessary. And because of them, 5 nurseries in Pennsylvania and Maryland are growing 480,000 trees for the program that will be distributed at no charge to our over 215 partners across Pennsylvania throughout spring and fall 2022.

These trees were grown based on specifications written within a “forward contract” model where the Foundation, with the support of generous donors, paid a deposit to the nurseries, inspected them at their 1st year of growth, paid a mid-point payment, and will pay a final payment upon delivery. This has given nurseries an opportunity to have financial security within their business and some have even expanded their operations. And it helps us to provide a quality, sustainable supply of native trees for partner restoration projects.

Now we’re tackling the next challenge – working on the demand side to market and advertise to potential landowners who may want these trees planted on priority areas within Pennsylvania landscapes.

I work with an amazing team, and we have created a system in Pennsylvania that can be replicated in other ecological restoration programs. When I graduated high school, I never would have imagined that this is the career trajectory I would be on. Life is not linear. I’ve learned so much by being out in the field and working in many industries. Each of those experiences brought me to this place and time to help Pennsylvania find a solution to its ecological challenges. I hope I can be a small part of meeting this historic challenge. You will meet many other women in the Women’s Forest Congress who have faced similar journeys and are on their way to great things. Success is what we achieve when we help one another get there together.