Meet Our New Director of Forest Conservation

by American Forests

Eric SpragueEric Sprague recently came to American Forests as our new director of forest conservation. Before joining American Forests, Eric directed the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s efforts to restore forest ecosystems and has also worked with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, The Conservation Fund and the U.S. EPA’s smart growth program. We’re excited for the depth of knowledge, experience and perspective he’s bringing to the position and the organization — and we think you should be excited, too! From exciting tales from the field to why he chose to work in conservation, read more about Eric.

  • Why did you choose to go into conservation?
    Being outdoors was not a regular event for me growing up, but when I did get the chance, the experiences stuck with me: hiking through the gorges in Turkey Run State Park, discovering secluded groves in our local park, exploring my aunt and uncle’s woods and climbing the tulip magnolia in our front yard. My awe for nature was magnified over time as I learned how important it was to our lives: clean water and air, habitat for wildlife and quality of life. Conservation gives me a daily excuse to further my awe for the natural world while contributing tangible benefits to society.
  • What aspects of American Forests’ work are you most excited to be a part of?
    I am incredibly excited to be working in some of the most important natural areas in the country, including the Rocky Mountains, Hawaiian forests and the longleaf pine landscapes of the Southeastern United States. American Forests is unique in that it can work nationally while building partnerships and making restoration investments locally.
  • What do you think are the most significant challenges facing forests today?
    Forests have evolved in a changing landscape for millennia. Many plants and wildlife species actually depend on this regular change. However, a new set of changes, including sprawling development, climate change, invasive species and pests and past land use decisions, are challenging the resilience of our forests. How governments, forestland owners, developers, environmental groups and others respond to the cumulative impacts of these changes will shape the future of our forests and the benefits they provide society.
  • Do you have a favorite story from your years in the field?
    I have a number of good stories from the field like watching a group of juvenile bald eagles attempting to catch river otters running to open water across a stretch of ice. Adult bald eagles watched on from perches in nearby trees as if knowing what a fruitless exercise it was. My favorite stories, though, have involved helping landowners restore and conserve their lands for the future. In Prince George’s County, Md., I was able to help finance a loan to a family interested in protecting their woods in a growing area. The loan allowed the family to place an easement on the property and establish a forest mitigation bank. The family is repaying the loan as they sell “credits” to developers seeking to comply with development regulations.
  • What is your favorite tree and why?
    Isn’t the white oak everybody’s favorite tree? What’s not to love? White oaks are beautiful, long-lived trees that provide habitat for numerous animals. The rough and flaky bark of mature oak trees provide habitat for more kinds of insects than any other hardwood. The insects, in turn, set off a food chain for many mammals and birds. Also, you can’t have bourbon without a new white oak barrel.

Forest Digest – Week of April 25, 2016

by American Forests
Creek in forest.

Credit: Cristie Wrazen.

Find out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest! This week, each article corresponds to the element of water as part of our Earth Month campaign and why #WeNeedForests.

Share your own stories with us and join our Earth Month conversation by using the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!


American Forests & the Alcoa Foundation Partner in 2016 to Plant 470,000 Trees

by American Forests
Alcoa Foundation volunteers

Alcoa Foundation volunteers helped plant 350 native trees across two acres in 2015 to enhance a watershed in one of Ohio’s most densely populated counties.

Last year marked the fifth year of our partnership with the Alcoa Foundation, working towards their goal of planting 10 million trees by 2020. Together, we’ve planted more than 1.14 million trees in that time, and the equivalent of 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide have been absorbed by these plantings annually.

These projects have helped to restore and re-forest areas across the United States, and even in international locations such as Spain, Brazil and China. In 2015, we helped to improve stormwater management and watershed quality in Maryland, reforest an abandoned coal mining site near Pittsburgh and increase tree cover in Halton Hills, Canada.

In 2016, 470,000 trees will be planted across 29 projects funded through this partnership, bringing the total number of trees to 1.7 million by the end of the year. Each project has a unique restoration function, whether it’s planting more than 20,000 native pine species across 40 acres of forestland around the Owasippe Boy Scout camp in Michigan, or aiding hospital patients in their recovery process by planting trees at hospital sites in the United Kingdom.

Here’s a few more examples of the projects that American Forests and Alcoa will be tackling in 2016:

  • A planting of nearly 2,100 native trees across 6 acres of the Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, which is considered one of the world’s richest in biodiversity. This project will help create habitats for animals affected by deforestation and habitat fragmentation, such as the Brazilian puma, muriqui monkey and the ocelet, among others.
  • A collaboration with TreeVitalize Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden to plant 1,800 trees as part of a larger project to transform 460 acres of abandoned coal mining land just seven miles west of downtown Pittsburgh.
  • A restoration of the natural corridors of Ardilla, Spain, by planting 5,500 trees that are native to the Iberian Peninsula.
  • A revitalization of a riparian ecosystem in Atlanta. The project will focus on not only removing invasive species, but also replanting more than 1,800 seedlings in three greenspaces around the city of Atlanta.

Find out more about American Forests’ partnership with Alcoa here, and check out how much of a difference we have made, as of 2015, through our infographic from last year, which details the first five years of the partnership with Alcoa Foundation!


7 Must-Visit Waterfalls across the U.S.

by American Forests

By Shandra FurtadoCommunications Intern

Forests and water share an important relationship, but the combination of these two natural beauties sure makes a site to behold! So, for all you hikers and outdoor lovers, here is a list of some of our favorite waterfalls found in National Parks and Forests throughout the United States.

  1. Bird Woman Falls – Glacier National Park, Montana
    Spilling out of the hanging valley above Mt. Oberlin and Mt. Cannon, this majestic waterfall stands out in comparison to the layered rock and emerald pines beneath it year round. The falls lie just west of the continental divide, and the water will eventually flow across the continent and into the Pacific Ocean. The name “Bird Woman Falls” is thought to have originated from Sacajawea, which translates roughly into “bird woman.”
Birdwoman Falls

Credit: NPS / Jacob W. Frank via Flickr.

  1. Hidden Falls – Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Minnesota
    Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is comprised of a 150-foot layer of glacial drift over a layer of limestone. Hidden falls is one of the few places in the park where the drift has been eroded away and the limestone is visible. The steep, short drop is at its best when water flow is gentle, allowing individual streams to cascade over the glacial rock in a dream-like state.
Hidden Falls

Credit: McGhiever via Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Nugget Falls (also known as Mendenhall Glacier Falls) – Tongass National Forest, Alaska
    This majestic waterfall, fed by the Nugget glacier, drops almost 400 feet with massive force onto a sandbar in Mendenhall Lake. The picturesque scene offers views of Mt. McGinnis, Stroller White Mountain, Mendenhall Glacier and Bullard Mountain in the background and the chance to spot black bears fishing for salmon in the foreground.
Nugget Falls

Credit: Larry D. Moore via Flickr.

  1. Havasu Falls – Havasupai Reservation, Arizona
    Although not technically in a national forest or park, the stark contrast between the fire-orange canyon and the neon blue water at Havasu Falls makes it impossible to keep this magnificent waterfall off this list. The blue color is due to a large amount of calcium carbonate in the water, which is reflected strongly off the limestone walls. The large amount of calcium carbonate also created distinctive travertine formations throughout the creek and over the waterfall. To see the waterfall, visitors must take an eight-mile trek down the Hualapai Trail through the Havasupai Reservation.
Havasu Falls

Credit: Alan via Flickr.

  1. McWay Falls and Cove – Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California
    McWay Falls is visible from the roadside of Highway 1 in Big Sur. Previously, the waterfall flowed directly into the ocean until a massive fire, landslide and highway reconstruction project near the area in the early 1980s. Today, the falls flow onto the beach and then into the ocean through the sand. The picturesque waterfall drops 80 feet into McWay Cove, making for a scenic coastal combination that has become the poster-child for ocean waterfalls on the west coast.
McWay Falls

Credit: King of Hearts via Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Vernal and Nevada Falls – Yosemite National Park, California

It is easy to see where the name of the signature “Mist Trail” in Yosemite, consisting of Vernal and Nevada Falls, comes from. The mist from these waterfalls is intense and depending on the time of the year, hikers can be completely drenched by the time they reach the end of the trail. At the top of Vernal Falls, the second waterfall on the trail, there is a flat expanse of rock that drops into the Emerald Pool and allows hikers to rest and air dry. The hike is not for the light of heart. For experienced hikers, however, the views are worth it.

Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls. Credit: God of War via Wikimedia Commons.

Nevada Falls

Nevada Falls. Credit: God of War via Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Mesa Falls – Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Idaho
    Mesa Falls drops into the remnants of an inactive caldera volcano from more than a million years ago. Henry’s Fork caldera deposited a thick layer of rock and ash across the area that the thunderous falls currently flow over. The roaring waters of the 10-story Upper Mesa Falls flows downstream into the Lower Mesa Falls, which cascade in a gradual, yet equally as powerful, way.
Mesa Falls

Credit: Kathy Kimpel via Flickr.


The Important Relationship between Forests and Water

by American Forests

By Austa Somvichian-ClausenCommunications Intern

river in forest

Credit: Richard Ricciardi via Flickr.

There are few resources, if any, more vital to life than water. Whether it be drinking water, or water in our homes for bathing and cleaning dishes, not one day goes by that we don’t need and use water. The average American uses an estimated 80-100 gallons of water per day. For many of us, having access to clean drinking water and running water in our homes is a necessity that we often take for granted. According the United Nations, 85 percent of the world’s population lives in the driest half of the planet, and 783 million people do not have access to clean water.

But, people aren’t the only ones who need water — animals need clean water too, and for many species, such as different species of frogs which have highly permeable skin, water pollution can mean extinction. The loss of access to clean water, and the pollution of water sources, is partially due to deforestation.

Water availability has a direct impact on the health of forests and their inhabitants, which shows the importance of the relationship between forests and water. Trees are made up of more than 50 percent water and need a steady source of it in order to grow and stay healthy. A healthy 100-foot-tall tree can take 11,000 gallons of water from the soil and release it into the air again, as oxygen and water vapor, in a single growing season. They “drink” in the water using their small, hair-like roots. Water from the soil enters their roots and is carried up the tree’s trunk all the way to the leaves.

Trees serve as natural sponges, collecting and filtering rainfall and releasing it slowly into streams and rivers, and are the most effective land cover for maintenance of water quality. The ability of forests to aid in the filtration of water doesn’t only provide benefits to our health and the health of an ecosystem, but also to our pocketbooks. Forest cover has been directly linked to drinking water treatment costs, so the more forest in a source water watershed, the lower the cost to treat that water. Forests provide these benefits by filtering sediments and other pollutants from the water in the soil before it reaches a water source, such as a stream, lake or river.

forest fact

Having a buffer of forestland by streams and riverbanks does even more good than just filtering the water. They also help prevent erosion of sediment into the water, help to recharge the water table by allowing water to enter the ground and even the shade of trees play an important role in the lives of certain fish. Fish species, such as trout and salmon, are sensitive to changes in water temperature and will only lay their eggs in cool water, which is where the role of shady trees come in.

To learn more about the relationship between forests and water, and to join in our Earth Month conversation, visit our Elements of Forests Earth Month homepage and use the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!


Forest Digest – Week of April 18, 2016

by American Forests

Find out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest! This week, each article corresponds to the element of air as part of our Earth Month campaign and why #WeNeedForests.
foggy mountains

Share your own stories with us and join our Earth Month conversation by using the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!


The Best Way to Celebrate Earth Day in 10 U.S. Cities

by American Forests

By Austa Somvichian-ClausenCommunications Intern

Tomorrow is Earth Day, the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, and came about as an idea by then U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. The idea came to him after witnessing the environmental destruction of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to rally for a healthy sustainable environment. Today, Earth Day is celebrated by more than a billion people every year and presents itself as a time to provoke change in human behavior and policy regarding our environment.

There are so many different ways to celebrate our environment on Earth Day (and every day) and to be a part of the movement towards sustainability — from simply being aware of the ways you use natural resources and manage your household waste, to planting trees or  getting outside and spending the day in nature. Here are a few of the ways Earth Day 2016 will be celebrated in cities around the United States:

New York City

Celebrate Earth Day in the Big Apple at the Green Festival Marketplace at the LEED Certified Javits Center. The Javits Center has the second largest green roof on a single, free-standing building in the entire United States. Throughout the weekend there will be more than 250 exhibitors, 50 inspirational speakers, tons of local nonprofits and delicious vegan and vegetarian food to munch on. Kids gain free entry, and students get in free on Friday.

Central Park

Central Park. Credit: Corey Harmon via Flickr.

Los Angeles

Grand Park will be having an Earth Day event featuring a tour of the park’s sustainable landscaping, outdoor yoga — including a boot camp — artwork, healthy lifestyle vendors and more. They will also be giving away free trees to Los Angeles residents!

UCLA will also be having their 9th annual Earth Day Fair to share their knowledge of sustainability. You can bring any type of electronic waste to them to be recycled safely, learn how to create a reusable bag from an old t-shirt, take photos in their photo booth and listen to live student music.

UCLA

UCLA. Credit: Ignacio Andrade via Flickr.

Chicago

The city of Chicago has the highest number of green roofs of any city in the U.S. and has plenty of fun Earth Day activities to attend! Watch a free screening of the award-winning film “Growing Cities” and enjoy outdoor star gazing led by the Chicago Astronomical Society & International Dark-Sky Association.

The Chicago Botanic Garden will also be guiding a special walk through McDonald Woods to celebrate Earth day this year. On this walk you can learn about a variety of spring wildflowers and the restoration work that is underway.

Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago

Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago. Center for Neighborhood Technology via Flickr.

Boston

Every year on Earth Day, there is an annual Charles River Cleanup that brings together more than 3,000 volunteers to pick up trash, remove invasive species and assist with park maintenance. An integrated health center, OMBE Boston, will also be holding an Eco Beauty Bar Night on April 20, featuring mini-massages, spa treatments and samplings of organic skin care and eco-friendly wellness products.

Charles River, Boston

Charles River, Boston. Credit: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr.

Miami

Miami EcoAdventures is going to be hosting EarthFest at Greynolds Park, a day filled with free and exciting nature-focused activities and programs such as a guided canoe tour, a scavenger hunt, walking tours, face painting and more. North Miami Parks and Recreation is also hosting a “Go Green & Clean-up” event at two different locations in Miami to help clean the city, enjoy family- and kid-friendly activities and learn more about nature. Participants will be provided with a free t-shirt and lunch.

Miami

Miami. Credit: Richard Tanswell via Flickr.

Washington, D.C.

There is a plethora of ways to celebrate Earth Day this year in our nation’s capital. From Earth Day at Union Station featuring interactive, eco-friendly exhibits and activities, to watershed cleanups in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

Other fun events include an Earth Day celebration at the United States Botanic Garden, where participants can enjoy cooking demonstrations with seasonal produce and meet local representatives of environmental organizations. Earth Day at the National Zoo will be featuring gardening tips from expert horticulturists, a tour of the Zoo’s green facilities and special demonstrations.

The White House / North

The White House / North. Credit: George Rex via Flickr.

San Francisco

San Francisco’s Earth Day SF Street Fair is expected to have more than 10,000 attendees this year, taking advantage of the renowned speakers, eco innovators, green industry and civic leaders, earth-friendly products, nonprofits, sustainable fashion designers and alternative energy companies that will be in attendance. The event will feature fun activities like Do-It-Yourself workshops, a celebrity chef showcase, sustainable fashion shows and even an eco-carnival with a kid’s zone and an organic food court.

Admission to the Marine Science Institute is free all-day at Earth Day on the Bay. There’s going to be live music by the Banana Slug String Band, food trucks, a live raffle and shark feeding.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Credit: Trace Nietert via Flickr.

Austin, Texas

Austin’s annual Earth Day Festival will be returning this year to Mueller, Austin’s ‘sustainable mixed-use urban village.’ This year’s festival will be huge, with a presentation on Greening Your Home moderated by the Co-Director of CMPBS, Gail Vittori, and presentations on recycling and the green tech futurists of Austin. There will also be a Kid’s Zone with fun activities and a ‘Zen Zone’ with yoga classes and acupuncture demos.

Austin Texas Lake Front

Austin Texas Lake Front. Credit: Stuart Seeger via Flickr.

Honolulu

The Waikiki Aquarium will be hosting the 9th Annual Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo to highlight the impact we make on water sources. The aquarium, and 15 other organizations, will be providing educational activities for both children and adults on how to preserve and protect the diverse environment of Hawaii.

Honolulu

Honolulu. Credit: Markus Jöbstl via Flickr.

Seattle

Celebrate Earth Day the active way in Seattle by participating in the April Earth Day half marathon, 15k, 10k or 5k races. The events are organized by Club Northwest, a locally based running club, and the race routes are located around the winding park roads and trails of Magnuson Park.

Seattle

Seattle. Credit: Andrew Albertson via Flickr.


Conservation for the Future: An Interview with Ryan Reynolds

by American Forests

As we inch closer to Earth Day, we’re continuing to highlight a very special partnership that has helped plant millions of trees: our 20-year partnership with Eddie Bauer. As part of The One Tree Initiative, we’ve been sharing a little behind-the-scenes look into what drives an interest in conservation from actor and activist, Ryan Reynolds, Eddie Bauer’s philanthropic ambassador to our partnership.

Watch the final installment of our video series to understand why being outdoors is both important and personal to Reynolds and why he feels compelled to conserve our environment for his children.


Learn more
about our partnership with Eddie Bauer and The One Tree Initiative. Plus, during Earth Week, Eddie Bauer will be matching donations made through The One Tree Initiative, giving one tree for every dollar raised, up to 75,000 trees. Donate now!


The Important Relationship between Forests and Air

by American Forests

By Shandra FurtadoCommunications Intern

Tree in field.

Not only do trees produce oxygen, but they also improve air quality in some unexpected ways.

We’ve all heard it — we need oxygen from trees to survive. It’s the primary campaign from tree lovers around the world in our quest to save the forests. However, although oxygen is important for survival, it is not the only air quality improvement maneuver for which trees should be praised.

A lesser known, yet equally interesting, feature of trees is how they cool air through evapotranspiration. As trees transpire, they release water into the atmosphere through their leaves. As the water changes state from liquid to vapor, the surrounding air is cooled, similar to how we sweat. This effect is especially beneficial in urban areas where heat is trapped by concrete and asphalt surfaces and can make summer days unbearably hot. Especially in recent years, where global temperatures have spiked, trees can offset increased temperatures on a local scale.

Another way trees can benefit urban areas and make it easier for us to breathe is through particulate matter capture. Forests can improve public health greatly by catching dust, ash, pollen and smoke on their leaves, keeping it out of our lungs.

But, particulate matter is not the only atmospheric pollution from which trees protect us. Trees are sinks for other harmful pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia and ozone, which can all cause respiratory problems from repeated exposure. Although ozone deflects harmful UV rays in the upper atmosphere, ground-level ozone is very dangerous and is linked to asthma. Trees are effective air filters by design, filtering out not only gasses that are harmful to humans, but also harmful to the earth’s ecosystems as a whole. Carbon dioxide is one of the most harmful greenhouse gasses, and filtering carbon dioxide out of the air is what trees do best.

urban forest

Throughout its lifetime, a tree pulls carbon dioxide from the air and turns it into sugar through photosynthesis, releasing oxygen in the process. This sugar is used to build organic matter — in the trunk, roots, leaves, branches and flowers. This accumulation acts as a carbon “sink,” which offsets accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Trees, however, cannot help us in this manner if they are left to rot or burn.

When a tree is cut down and burnt, the carbon does not just go away, butmost of the carbon the tree has captured throughout its lifetime is also released back into the air as carbon dioxide, reversing its lifetime work capturing greenhouse gasses. If trees are left behind to rot from logging, not carbon dioxide, but methane — a greenhouse gas roughly 30 times as potent as carbon dioxide — will be released into the atmosphere from decomposers.  Reckless deforestation around the world accounts for 15 percent of global emissions of these heat-trapping gasses, a dangerous level that has the potential to be lowered.

Trees are the protectors of the earth, however, it is our turn to protect them. To learn more about the relationship between forests and air, visit our Elements of Forests homepage. Help us protect our forests by joining in on the conversation using the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!


Preserving Our Forests: An Interview with Ryan Reynolds

by American Forests

For so many of us, being out in nature has been a transformative experience. As we continue through Earth Week, we’ve been talking about our partnership with Eddie Bauer and The One Tree Initiative, and learning why actor and activist Ryan Reynolds, Eddie Bauer’s philanthropic ambassador to our partnership of 20 years with the outdoor brand — cares about forests. Reynolds’ enjoyment of hiking, backpacking and camping, as well as his interest in protecting the forests in which he experiences those adventures, has certainly made us fans!

Watch the second installment of our video series to hear what first introduced Reynolds to the majesty of forests and why he feels the duty to protect them.


Learn more
about our partnership with Eddie Bauer and The One Tree Initiative. Plus, during Earth Week, Eddie Bauer will be matching donations made through The One Tree Initiative, giving one tree for every dollar raised, up to 75,000 trees. Donate now!