Mission & History

Project Learning Tree® (PLT) is an award-winning environmental education program designed for teachers and other educators, parents, and community leaders working with youth from preschool through grade 12. PLT is an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.


is to advance sustainability through forest-focused collaborations.


is a world that values and benefits from sustainably managed forests.


is to advance environmental education, forest literacy, and career pathways using trees and forests as windows on the world.


To help achieve PLT’s goal, we:

  • Provide students with the awareness, appreciation, skills, and commitment to address environmental issues.
  • Enable students to apply scientific processes and higher order thinking skills to resolve environmental problems.
  • Help students acquire an appreciation for and tolerance of diverse viewpoints on environmental issues and develop attitudes and actions based on analysis and evaluation of the available information.
  • Encourage creativity, originality, and flexibility to resolve environmental problems and issues.
  • Inspire and empower students to become responsible, productive, and participatory members of society.


PLT History

Mid-1970s: PLT launched as a collaboration between the American Forest Institute (AFI), a forest products industry trade association dedicated to improving the management of America’s forests, and the Western Regional Environmental Education Council (WREEC), a non-profit organization comprised of representatives from state departments of education and natural resources agencies from 13 western states.

The founders of PLT developed an effective environmental education program based on three goals. The first goal was to design an environmental education program that would gain the confidence of the education community—educators would have to like it, trust it, and use it. The second goal was to develop partnerships between public and private sectors that ensured the curriculum was balanced, fair, and accurate—and that the curriculum encouraged students to consider all sides and factors when making decisions about the environment. The third goal was to design a system of implementation for the program. By making the materials only available through workshops, the founders were helping to ensure that the curriculum would be used effectively.  Educators participate in workshops to learn how to use the materials effectively with their students and make them locally relevant.

Learn more about the beginnings of PLT from one of its founders, Rudy Schafer.

1982: AFI executed a licensing arrangement with the American Forest Foundation (AFF), which thereby became the co-sponsor with WREEC of PLT. In 1993, AFF became a wholly independent, publicly supported, 501(c)(3) non-profit education organization and took over all administration for PLT. 

2017: AFF transferred PLT to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc., an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the future of our forests and promoting sustainable forest management.

Today: Project Learning Tree is one of the most widely used preK-12 environmental education programs in the United States and abroad. PLT is available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia; several U.S. territories; and Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, and Uruguay. PLT curriculum has been translated into several languages.