One Tree at a Time

Anthony Collazo launches project to make the desert green

By Dianna Troyer

Anthony organized One Tree at a Time and hopes to plant 1,000 trees in the West Wendover area. Photo courtesy of Anthony Collazo

At his apartment complex in West Wendover two years ago, Anthony Collazo yearned to see trees growing in the barren, arid landscape.

“I wanted to plant trees to green and beautify as much of Wendover as possible,” says Anthony, a senior at West Wendover High School. “I was inspired by a science class and wanted to also increase biodiversity and sequester excess carbon dioxide from the air.”

He found a solution for a classic regional growing problem: how to help the trees flourish with northern Nevada’s low rainfall and poor soil.

“I did some research and was excited to learn about Waterboxxes and mycorrhizal fungi,” he says. “I knew if I used those, the trees could not only live but thrive.”

He chose the Groasis Waterboxx, a round device planted with a tree to bolster water retention. The fungi help trees absorb nutrients in any soil type, eliminating the need for fertilizer.

To make his dream become reality, Anthony established an organization, One Tree at a Time, in 2019.

“I had a mission in mind—to support native desert habitat restoration, sustainable living practices, and to educate the community about our interdependence with the environment.”

He spent months planning, meeting with government officials and local business owners, and fundraising.

In six months, he raised $15,000 through a GoFundMe campaign and local business donations. He also obtained grants from the Nevada Division of Forestry’s Urban and Community Forestry Program and Wells Rural Electric Company’s Next Dollar Foundation.

Anthony Collazo and Gary Reese demonstrate how a Waterboxx works. Photo courtesy of Susanne Reese

Anthony and volunteers planted the first batch of trees in May 2020 at the apartments. Since then, they have planted 480 trees in the West Wendover area at local schools, a dog park, downtown city offices, and the golf course.

“My goal is to eventually plant 1,000 trees,” Anthony says.

The trees are growing better than expected.

“The success rate is amazing—67% Anthony says. “When trees are planted for restoration in the wild, only about 30% survive.”

This fall, a new shipment of trees will be planted to replace those that died.

To implement the project, Anthony worked with the Nevada Division of Forestry.

“We’re excited to support him,” says Gary Reese, natural resource manager for the agency and Anthony’s mentor. “He’s really driven and has succeeded in growing trees.”

The agency has applied Anthony’s tree-growing techniques elsewhere in Nevada.

“The use of the water boxes is the key to trees surviving in the desert,” Gary says. “After seeing how well Anthony’s trees grew, we will use 100 boxes to plant trees at the South Fork State Recreation Area near Spring Creek and to also stabilize the streambanks along the South Fork of the Humboldt River.”

To select trees, Anthony relied on advice from the staff at the state forestry division’s nursery.

“Their trees are acclimated to our area and have done great,” he says.

Anthony is grateful for countless volunteers who have helped him plant 480 trees since May 2020. Photos courtesy of Anthony Collazo

The staff suggested he plant Fremont cottonwood, lacebark elm, Mondell pine, Austrian pine, Scotch pine, burr oak, red oak, red cedar, hybrid poplar, Russian olive, and golden rain trees. They ranged from 1 to 7 feet tall.

Friends and local volunteers helped Anthony plant the trees.

“I couldn’t have done this alone,” he says. “I have no words to describe the gratitude I feel for everyone who has helped with this project. This will forever be a highlight of my life. It’s totally been worth the backaches, blisters, and stress.” Anthony uses a city water truck to water the trees about four times a year from May to November.

“That’s what’s nice about a small-town— city departments are willing to help,” he says.

The project has guided his career goals. Anthony plans to enroll at a Nevada university to study urban forestry and environmental science.

Anthony Collazo, creator of One Tree at a Time in West Wendover, plants a tree with a Waterboxx so it will flourish despite low rainfall. Photo by Susanne Reese

“I hope planting the trees makes people think about our connection to the environment and the impact we have on our resources,” he says.

Eventually, Anthony wants West Wendover to be designated a Tree City USA. To be in the program, a city must annually allocate $2 per capita for planting and caring for trees.

Until then, Anthony and his supporters have about 500 more trees to plant.

“I can’t wait to plant more trees this fall and next spring,” he says. “Springtime better come fast so I can see my babies get their leaves back. This started out as a dream, and it has now grown into something bigger than myself.”

View Anthony’s project at the One Tree at a Time website and on Instagram @_onetreeatatime.