A presidential plea

by Christopher Horn

Last week, American Forests launched its first-ever petition through TakePart’s Take Action forum — a letter to President Obama to make forests play an important role in the country’s climate change plan — and have seen a tremendous amount of people from across the world sign on.

Forests across the country and world are succumbing to a range of threats, from drought and wildfire to pests and diseases, all of which are exacerbated by climate change.

Forests across the country and world are succumbing to a range of threats, from drought and wildfire to pests and diseases, all of which are exacerbated by climate change.

President Obama announced the initiative in July, highlighting rising temperatures, carbon pollution, and the country’s preparedness for the impacts of climate change.

Forests and climate change have a dynamic relationship. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, one of the biggest contributors to climate change, and convert it into clean oxygen, which they release, and carbon, which they store. Sound forest management practices and increased funding can help these important natural resources maintain and improve their potential to sequester carbon, maximizing their ability to mitigate climate change.

Please take a moment to sign the petition and share with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. With your support, we can encourage the president and his staff to ensure that forests have a place in our country’s — and world’s — climate change conversation.


Forest Digest — Week of August 4

by Loose Leaf Team

The first Forest Digest of August features some major wildfire stories.

Check out this week’s news in trees:

  • “Swedish Forest Fire Prevented From Spreading”The Wall Street Journal
    Made worse by high temperatures and dry conditions, one of the most devastating wildfires in Sweden’s recent memory burned in a region 140 kilometers northwest of Stockholm, the capital. One person died and thousands were evacuated.
  • “Singapore to fine domestic, foreign companies for causing haze”mongabay.com
    Racked by air pollution caused by peat and forest fires in Sumatra, Singapore’s parliament voted to fine domestic and foreign companies who participate in forest burning that creates smoggy and hazy conditions, which experts say may be worse this year because of hotter, dryer weather.

Smokey at 70

by Loose Leaf Team

By Carrie Brooks, Communications Intern

This Saturday, Smokey Bear will take a short break from helping prevent forest fires and turn his attention to the flames atop 70 candles. Fortunately, there is no disaster here: these lit candles will adorn the American icon’s birthday cake!

Smokey was brought into being by the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council as a vehicle to educate Americans on preventing forest fires. The bear has withstood the test of time. His simple-but-powerful slogan is familiar to most every generation: “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

However, Smokey Bear is not only an icon — he is an advocate. His message of wildfire prevention is still relevant; humans cause 90 percent of wildfires. The National Interagency Fire Center reports that humans in the United States are responsible for an annual average of 62,631 fires that burn more than 2.5 million acres every year.

Human-caused wildfires are destructive, yet, this negative stereotype is not always accurate. In many circumstances, fire benefits forests.

Jami Westerhold poses with Smokey Bear at a volunteer event in summer 2014.

Jami Westerhold, Senior Director of Forest Restoration Programs, met Smokey Bear at an American Forests volunteer event in the Greater Yellowstone Area this summer.

Jami Westerhold, American Forests’ Senior Director of Forest Restoration, says low-intensity wildfires create openings, increasing sun exposure and water supply, which encourages plant growth and regeneration. Fires leave ash that can serve as a fertilizer and also help protect trees in the vicinity from certain threats.

“Fire can also help eliminate pests and diseases that damage forests and creates diversity in plant ages — or successional stages,” she said. “This develops a healthier forest ecosystem and benefits wildlife.”

However, high-intensity fires are not among these circumstances. Jami notes that, in these situations, “seed sources and soil nutrients are severely impacted, preventing natural regeneration.” This is where American Forests’ involvement begins.

While Smokey Bear works to prevent wildfires, American Forests is dedicated to reforesting areas affected by high-impact wildfires. With the cooperation of our partners in the field, the organization endeavors to reforest the grounds with native trees.

Reforestation in these areas revitalizes ecosystems and improves forest and fire management. In turn, these actions limit damage from and can prevent altogether future fires — something that would please Smokey Bear!


Our Hill adventure

by Christopher Horn

By Caroline Brooks, Communications Intern and Sofia Maia-Goldstein, Policy Intern

Last week, our policy intern Sofia discussed the fifth anniversary celebration of America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative (ALRI). Because American Forests is one of ALRI’s partners, she had the opportunity to attend several events both at the Department of Agriculture offices and on Capitol Hill.

Caroline, our communications intern, joined Sofia for one Hill activity. The two interns accompanied several South Carolina longleaf pine advocates for a meeting in the office of one of their senators, Lindsey Graham.

The meeting was a unique experience for both Sofia and Caroline. Continue reading to learn more about this gathering from the interns’ perspectives.


Caroline, left, and Sofia joined constituents from South Carolina to advocate for the restoration of the state’s — and region’s — longleaf pine forests.

Main Point 1: Federal and State longleaf reforestation programs in South Carolina have proved highly beneficial.

CB: John Spearman, a private landowner who participated in the meeting, spoke highly of several federal initiatives that have allowed him to successfully grow and maintain longleaf pine. John has run a successful tree farm for many years.

Several years ago, a hurricane uprooted and destroyed vast longleaf population. Fortunately, he had enrolled his farm in a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) program years prior. The support of this federal project, allowed John to reforest his land with longleaf pines that continue to thrive today.

SMG: April Donnelly, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina, explained the importance of these longleaf restoration programs for low-income South Carolinians. Families unable to manage their own land and resources can seek support through USFS and local programs. By planting longleaf pine, constituents ultimately regain the historical integrity and economic benefit of their land.

American Forests has played a key role in South Carolina’s longleaf restoration through critical reforestation programs that have re-introduced more 5 million trees to the area.

Main Point 2: This meeting also impressed us with the legislative process and its role in longleaf restoration.

CB: What struck me the most about the meeting was the incredible first-hand way we were able to witness the average American citizen actively engaged in democracy. These individuals from various backgrounds were able to come together around a common concern to petition their elected officials.

SMG: J.P. Tyson and Scott Graber, the two legislative aides present, emphasized the Senator’s past support of longleaf restoration through the farm bill and showed an understanding of longleaf’s importance for both his constituents and the state of South Carolina.

This experience showed us the significance of both the legislative process and the relationship between constituents and policymakers. The future of the longleaf depends heavily on federal support, which can continue to be made possible largely by the dedication and advocacy of individuals and organizations. Such initiatives have been successful in the past because constituents — like those with whom we interacted — have given a voice to the issue.


Forest Digest — Week of July 28

by Loose Leaf Team

It’s everyone’s favorite day of the week: Friday! We love this day because it means that we get to share another edition of our Forest Digest with you!

Check out this week’s news in trees:

  • “Cost Of Wildfires Burns Through Budgets, Pushing Feds To Find Other Funds”HuffPost Green
    Wildfires are burning through federal funds because of a prolonged fire season along the West Coast. Experts fear wildfires will only worsen with higher temperatures and more severe drought conditions, which indicates that funding will become more of an issue.
  • “New bark beetle threatens southern Washington forests”Washington State University News
    The beetles are coming — for Washington pine trees. A new species of pine bark beetle called the California fivespined ips has been identified as a threat to pine trees in forests across the state.
  • American Forests named Washington, D.C. one of the 10 Best Cities for Urban Forests, thanks to the commitment of local arborists.

    American Forests named Washington, D.C. one of the 10 Best Cities for Urban Forests, thanks to the committed work of local arborists.

  • “Tree Whisperers: Meet the DC Employees Who Watch Over Our Trees”Washingtonian
    A city beautified with urban forests relies on dedicated arborists to protect its greenery. Duffy McCully is one of those remarkable individuals. For the last 15 years, McCully has participated in the movement to reforest Washington, D.C.’s urban canopy — a remarkable achievement!
  • “Deadly Fungus Killing Thousands of Trees in Everglades”Nature World News
    The tiny redbay ambrosia beetle has a special delivery for Everglades trees: the laurel wilt fungus. However, this fungus isn’t really a gift for the forests. In fact, it is lethal; the fungus has killed 330,000 acres of swamp bay trees since 2011.
  • “Trees Are Urban Superheroes”Outside Online
    A study from the U.S. Forest Service reports that we can all breathe easier, thanks to trees. Trees across the country are responsible for saving some 850 lives and eliminating 670,000 potential cases of respiratory diseases.
  • “Trees Get the Ax in War Against Asian Beetle”The Wall Street Journal
    Invasive insects: 1, trees: 0. Officials in Worcester, Mass., have decided to fight a prevalent pest — the Asian longhorned beetle — by cutting down 500 trees in the city.
  • “The Tragic Deforestation of the Chaco”Rolling Stone
    One of South America’s grandest — and relatively unknown — tropical forests is in a race against time. Gran Chaco forest is a hot, desert-like region that has been destroyed and deforested for many years. Now, farmers who have cleared the forests for agriculture insist they can save the region through sustainable practice.
  • “Stunning high-resolution map reveals secrets of Peru’s forests”Mongabay
    A newly developed carbon map of Peru reveals that the country’s forests absorb an amazingly high amount of carbon; however, a majority of this greenery lies outside of the country’s protected areas.

An update on the longleaf

by Loose Leaf Team

By Sofia Maia-Goldstein, Policy Intern

America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative (ALRI), a group of private and public partners that seeks to restore and conserve longleaf pine ecosystems in the southeast U.S., made strides in the political world last week.

Addressing the loss of 90 million acres of longleaf forests from its original range, American Forests and a diverse number of stakeholders, including conservation and forestry groups, private landowners, and multiple state and federal agencies, have come together to work towards restoring millions of acres of longleaf forest.

The southeastern U.S. has seen a loss of 90 million acres of longleaf from its original range. Source: USDA/Flickr

The southeastern U.S. has seen a loss of 90 million acres of longleaf from its original range. Source: USDA/Flickr

In the past five years, 1.38 million acres of newly planted trees have helped reverse the decline of the species, which ranges from Virginia to Texas. In celebration of progress, the initiative held a panel, featuring Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who moderated a small group of landowners, a state forester, industry and Longleaf Partnership Council members to discuss the success to date as well as how to sustain efforts in years 6-10. Following the panel, a reception was hosted by Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

In addition to celebration, constituents and conservation organizations visited Congress to address necessary funding for reforestation programs to ensure the reestablishment of longleaf continues on an upwards trend.

Although the Farm Bill provides mandatory funding for many of these programs, the FY15 Agriculture Appropriations bill currently proposes a reduction to a number of programs, including the Environmental Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program and the regional Conservation Partnership Program. When discussing FY15 with congressional staffers, the ALRI advocated for the FY12 levels for these programs, as funding has decreased from that appropriated level since.

Addressing wildland fire and budgeting problems in the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior will also be critical in maintaining longleaf pine forests and ensuring money from associated programs is not shorted because of a “borrowing effect” from a lack of funds for fire suppression. Proper funding for these programs would mean quicker and more efficient restoration along with a number of economic, environmental and social benefits for communities involved.

These precious forests support a large amount of wildlife species, offer high quality timber opportunities, provide a buffer zone for military installations, and restore historical integrity to the land. American Forests has recognized the critical importance of these pines by taking action on the ground. Through several programs, we have helped plant more than five million longleaf pines since 1992. These new habitats continue to offer a home for endangered species including the gopher tortoise and the red cockaded woodpecker.

Together with support from several regional and federal agencies, constituents and landowners, American Forests will continue to advocate for the reforestation of longleaf pine and the benefits the species brings to the southeastern U.S.

Be sure to check out Loose Leaf later this week for a post from Communications Intern Caroline Brooks and me about our experience with longleaf restoration advocacy on Capitol Hill!


Forest Digest — Week of July 21

by Loose Leaf Team

Start your weekend off right with the latest edition of Forest Digest!

Here is this week’s news in trees:

Forest Digest — Week of July 14

by Loose Leaf Team

Friday has arrived and so has our weekly Forest Digest!

Here’s this week’s news in trees:


National park loyal to native wonders

by Loose Leaf Team

By Caroline Brooks, Communications Intern

This October, American Forests and its partners will lead a group of our members in a unique Hawaiian experience, offering them exclusive insight into the magnificence of the Big Island. Our group will not only witness some of Hawaiʻi’s gorgeous landscapes, wildlife, and plant life, but we will also come to understand the dangers facing these local treasures.

On Day 2 of our adventure, trip-goers will visit Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park to observe the volcanoes and rainforests that make the area unique. We will hike along the Thurston Lava Tube and the Kilauea Iki Trail. Park rangers will inform the group of plans to reforest the park with native species.

The Hawksbill Turtle, known to Hawaiians as Honu ‘Ea, is one of the Island’s endangered species that the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park plans to recover in full. Photo: Legis/Wikimedia Commons

The Hawksbill Turtle, known to Hawaiians as Honu ‘Ea, is one of the state’s endangered species that the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park plans to recover in full.
Photo: Legis/Wikimedia Commons

Before we understand Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park’s solutions, we must first comprehend its problems. Within the park boundaries, numerous indigenous species are protected. But beyond, habitat destruction, disease, and non-native plants and animals have endangered these species’ survival over the last two centuries.

Like the Hawaiian wildlife, the native vegetation that grows in the park is threatened too. Invasive plants and animals that have been introduced into the island’s ecosystem over hundreds of years have impacted the livelihood of the native plant species.

The park is ardent about its duty of restoring ecosystems and protecting natural resources. Park staff hopes to drive out the foreign species of plants and animals that threaten the survival of this vital ecosystem, while restoring it to its natural state through reforestation. Additionally, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park aspires to recover several endangered wildlife species. Once all of these changes have been implemented, the National Park Service will regularly monitor animal populations to ensure their permanence.

Come along with us this October to experience the endangered flora and fauna that Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park serves. Special rates for the trip are available through July 18. We can’t wait to see you on the Island!


Read about some of the plants and animals that we will encounter on Hawaiʻi Wild:

  • Hawaiʻi Wild Part One: A young state with an ancient history — American Forests’ upcoming Forestscape adventure will introduce guests to the diverse species that once lived in abundance under the Island’s spacious skies as well as to the valiant efforts to protect them from invasive, destructive forces. 
  • Hawaiʻi Wild Part Two: Something to crow about in Hawaiʻi — The Hawaiian crow is one of the state’s most critically endangered species; however, a San Diego Zoo program solemnly strives to reform this status.
  • Hawaiʻi Wild Part Three: King koa — A dwindling koa tree population has compelled various reforestation groups to action.

Expect Big (Tree) things from LTI grant recipients

by Loose Leaf Team

By Caroline Brooks, Communications Intern

Big tree hunting just got easier for ten programs, thanks to the American Forests and LTI grant.

This year, American Forests partnered with Laser Technology, Inc. (LTI) for the first time to issue 10 refurbished TruPulse 360 compass laser rangefinders to a group of state big tree programs from across the country.

Lasers are used to accurately and consistently measure trees, an essential process when state programs receive nominations to The National Big Tree Register. Each of the recipient programs has a history of commitment to the National Big Tree Program, and American Forests and LTI agreed that their programs would benefit from the grant. Recipients include:

  • Alaska State Register of Big Trees — Don Bertolette
  • California Register of Big Trees — Matt Ritter
  • Connecticut’s Notable Trees — Frank Kaputa
  • Florida Champion Tree Program — Steve Lloyd
  • Iowa Big Tree Program — Emma Hanigan
  • Missouri’s Big Tree Program — Donna Baldwin
  • New Hampshire Big Tree Program — Kamalendu Nath
  • Ohio Big Tree Program — Lisa Bowers
  • Oregon Champion Tree Registry — Will Koomjian
  • Virginia Big Tree Program — Eric Wiseman

Here is how some of the grant winners will use their laser rangefinders to enhance their big tree programs:

The laser rangefinder will help the program remeasure [sic] and verify current records as well as measure newly nominated big trees. This information will help contribute to our efforts to create a statewide database of big trees in California. We hope the rangefinder will help us to attain complete information for every big tree record in the registry. — Matt Ritter

We expect a laser rangefinder would improve our program by making tree measuring an easier and more accurate task than it currently is… Also, comparing side-by-side measurements of laser rangefinders and clinometers, we might develop better methods of measuring using our existing tools. — Frank Kaputa

Once we show how well the TruPulse 360 can work in an urban environment, chances are I will be able to make the case for equipping all our urban foresters in the future, or at least provide one big tree measuring kit for each of our 8 regions in the state. — Donna Baldwin

A laser rangefinder will improve the accuracy of our tree measurements and the integrity of our database. This will foster positive public perceptions of our program and keep citizens engaged with us. — Eric Wiseman

American Forests congratulates all of the LTI grant recipients. We are thrilled to see how the TruPulse® 360 compass laser rangefinders will benefit these big tree programs!