ST. PAUL, Minn. - A Minnesota woman has initiated a summer cottonwood planting project to help the environment.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports Maria DeLaundreau hopes to reinvigorate the young cottonwood tree population. A few years ago, a National Park Service survey found there weren't any cottonwoods smaller than 6 inches in diameter along the 72-mile Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in the Twin Cities.

Cottonwoods are vital to the health of the floodplain forests because they provide habitat for eagles and shade for other tree species.

DeLaundreau leads groups of volunteers on planting missions. They also conduct experiments to figure out how they can help young cottonwoods sprout.

Although it's unclear why the young trees are struggling, DeLaundreau said deer and climate change are most likely the culprits.