The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago

Does “the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago and the second best time is now” date back further than 1988?

It is time to look long and hard at the value of the urban forest and create the broad-based efforts — in research, funding and citizen participation — needed to improve it. The lesson is, the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago and the second best time is now.

Moll (1988), p. 41

In 1998, Gary Moll was president with the American Forestry Association. He was recognized in “Gary Moll Wants People and Nature to Work Together” | Fall 2009 | ESRI ArcNews Online. In 2013, he was coauthor of “Shading Our Cities” | Island Press.

The rising prices of Christmas trees in 2019 surfaced this question.

Consumers on the hunt for a Christmas tree have little to cheer about this year, as prices are through the roof due to a shortage of trees that can be traced back to the 2008 financial crisis.

The Great Recession put thousands of American Christmas tree farmers out of business, resulting in far fewer seedlings being planted. As trees have a maturity cycle of 10 years, the lack of supply is just now beginning to bite, pushing up U.S. demand for Canadian Christmas trees and causing higher prices for consumers across the continent. [….]

Paul Quinn suspects the supply shortage will remain for at least a couple years.

“As the economics get better for tree growers you’ll see them planting more trees. Unfortunately, you had to have that foresight 10 years ago,” he said.

Reynolds (2019)

In the pursuit of etymology and the better quote citation, I would welcome seeing earlier uses of the phrase!

References:

#tree, #years-ago