An Iowa-based non-profit organization dedicated to planting and protecting trees plans to launch a massive campaign in the spring to restore thousands of trees that were destroyed by the August 10th derecho.

John Bright, spokesman for Marion-based Trees Forever, says the effort is being called Project Hope and it’ll focus on purchasing and planting trees in areas that were devastated by the powerful storm.

“There are some very hard hit areas in Cedar Rapids and Marion and the surrounding area,” Bright says. “It was really a massive disaster that covered 750-plus miles from Iowa to Illinois and that covers pretty much the exact Trees Forever service area.”

Towns including Hiawatha, Marshalltown and rural areas of Iowa will also be the focus of the project.

The tree canopy in Cedar Rapids was ravaged by the storm and some estimate more than six in every ten trees were destroyed by wind gusts there that reached 140-miles an hour.

“If you haven’t seen it in person, it’s hard to comprehend,” Bright says. “Sixty-five percent is the number that people are using but that’s just the initial look. It’s hard to tell when you’re going through the city. The arborists can’t figure out for sure which trees will make it though and which trees won’t.”

A tree-planting effort this fall saw more than 1,200 saplings given away just in Cedar Rapids, and Bright says they’re planning for many thousands more trees to be planted next spring. A training program called Treekeepers is available online now for those who want to get involved.

“It’s a webinar series where we train people to become Treekeepers,” Bright says. “You learn everything from tree identification to tree care, planting, everything you need to become an effective and helpful volunteer for Trees Forever. Those Treekeepers really are the main force behind our volunteer efforts.”

The derecho recovery process will take decades and Bright says the organization is asking citizens to give the gift of trees to the next generation of Iowans.