Support Northern Colorado Journalism
Show your support for North Forty News by helping us produce more content. It's a kind and simple gesture that will help us continue to bring more content to you.Click to Donate
OneCanopy is the first privately funded company in the Rocky Mountain region that’s aiming to address the entire reforestation process from seed to project monitoring.
The US is short more than 30 billion trees to adequately address largescale deforestation from climate change and human-induced disturbances. In Colorado alone, there’s more than three million acres of reforestation potential and the largest tree producers can only meet 20% of the need. Fort Collins native Kevin Brinkman has joined the effort to combat these issues by founding OneCanopy, Colorado’s first reforestation company. The company is a privately funded social enterprise that aims to engage in various facets of the reforestation pipeline, beginning with a seedling nursery growing plants that are native to the Rocky Mountain region.
It all started with an article. In February 2021, researchers from The Nature Conservancy and the United States Forest Service explored the aggressive reforestation goals that have been proposed in response to climate change. Their study showed that 30 billion trees were needed by 2040, requiring nursery production in the US to more than double to meet this target. The biggest needs as identified by their study were “additional investment to expand capacity for seed collection, seedling production, workforce development, and improvements in pre- and post-planting practices” (Fargione et al., 2021). This firmly cemented Kevin Brinkman’s passion for conservation and the Fort Collins-based entrepreneur decided it was time to put his money where his mouth is.
“I couldn’t believe the numbers coming out of that study,” Brinkman recalls. “It showed how important it is for private companies to start investing in this effort for us to meet these goals.”
After digging further, he learned there were fewer than 10 nurseries focused on native tree species production in the Rocky Mountain region, all of which are currently operating at full capacity.
“The impacts of climate change are palpable to us in Colorado,” said Brinkman. “The wildfires, the beetle kill, the droughts. That’s why we decided to start in our backyard, focusing on the Rocky Mountain region.”
Brinkman took the first step in January 2022 with the hire of Director of Operations Katelynn Martinez. Martinez is a graduate of Colorado State University’s Impact MBA program and has a decade of experience in forest health and management. Together, Brinkman and Martinez built up the rest of the team. Less than a year later, the company is a fully operating social enterprise with a triple-bottom-line mission. Profits are reinvested in the company as they work toward more than just seedling growth. The company also has social and community engagement goals focused on providing education, volunteer opportunities, nonprofit support, and skilled workforce training.
The team now consists of seven full-time employees with more than 40 years of industry experience. They’ve purchased and fully transitioned a nursery property off I-25 in Loveland and grown more than 300,000 seedlings. With community impact as a focus of the company, they’ve launched a volunteer and education program, through which 900 hours have already been logged.
The company has sold 35,000 trees for 2023 planting so far. OneCanopy’s current clients include federal, state, and local government entities, nonprofits, tribal agencies, and private landowners. The plant material they’ve purchased will support wildlife habitats, river and wildfire restoration, soil conservation, and food sovereignty.
“One of our core tenets is truly partnering with our clients,” said Martinez. “We know their needs will vary greatly, from order size to species to timing. As a small company, we can be flexible and adapt our processes to meet their specific needs.”
In the next five years, OneCanopy hopes to be the second largest producer of seedling trees for conservation efforts in the US by growing three million seedling trees per year, aiding in the reforestation of 10,000 forested acres throughout the Rocky Mountains. The production capacity of the current property is one million seedlings per year.
Although the seedling nursery is the company’s first official foray in to the conservation space, their vision is to engage in every aspect of the reforestation pipeline. Over time, OneCanopy plans to add project financing and implementation, seed collection, outplanting, and post-project monitoring to their services.