Celebrating 140 Years of Urban & Wildland Forest Protection & Restoration: Scott Steen Speech

by American Forests

On Monday, October 26, 2015, American Forests hosted a ceremonial tree planting at the East Capitol Urban Farm in honor of its 140th anniversary and to recognize the signing of a new MOU with the U.S. Forest Service. During the ceremony, Scott Steen, President & CEO of American Forests, gave the following remarks:

Scott Steen

Scott Steen. President & CEO of American Forests, giving his speech. Credit: American Forests.

“Before the theory of relativity, the aspirin, the x-ray and the discovery of the electron; before the automobile, the telephone, motion pictures and electric light; before airplanes flew and radios gave us knowledge of the world beyond our own towns — before all those things, American Forests was at work.

American Forests was there as waves of immigrants began the journey westward. We were there at the very genesis of the conservation movement in America. We were there as a new view took hold that perhaps nature had a value in and of itself, beyond its immediate utility to humans; and we were there as a new dawn revealed a planet more fragile than we knew.

During this same time, timber barons were rapidly stripping the Midwest and West of their forests, while homesteaders were just as quickly converting forest to farmland. North American wildlife was being hunted to the point of extinction. People needed jobs and houses, farmland and food.

It seemed the choice was nature or progress. But, we at American Forests said — both.

It was one of our founders who convinced President Grant that managing forests was the responsibility of the federal government. And, it was at an American Forest Congress in 1905 that a consensus was forged to create a national agency to care for our forests. And, with that, our partnership with the U.S. Forest Service began.

American Forests was there in 1933, as our nation was in the grip of the Great Depression. With unemployment, hunger and homelessness spiking, caring for our forests seemed like a low priority.

People needed jobs. They needed places to live. They needed food.

Again, we argued that this was a false choice, that we can meet the needs of nature AND of men.

At our urging, less than a month after taking office, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill making the Civilian Conservation Corps a reality.

Decades later, in the 1960s and ‘70s, America’s cities were burning. Crime, poverty and struggle defined our urban life. Urban renewal was demolishing old neighborhoods and putting up endless concrete landscapes.

But, we believed that nature in cities — trees, parks and fields —was a vital connection to our own humanity and could be used to solve urban problems.

Once again, the argument was set up as progress or nature. Once again, American Forests said both. And, the urban forest movement was given shape.

During the past 25 years, we have planted 50 million trees in more than 1,000 restoration projects. Nearly half of these have been in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

This work has made our water and air cleaner and our cities greener.

Working together, we have helped cool the planet and slow the creep of climate change. And, we have protected and restored habitat for dozens of threatened and endangered species, from grizzly bears to gopher tortoises.

Our belief that nature can enable human progress is at work right here, on this three-acre urban farm set in a neighborhood that has often lacked access to fresh produce. Right here, on what was once a vacant lot in the middle of the city, a group of innovators chose to use nature to solve a human challenge.

Nature and progress. Both. Today, the need for this kind of thinking is even greater and the stakes are higher than ever before.

Once again, there are those who would tell us that protecting wildlife is too expensive; that addressing climate change costs jobs; that we can have forests or we can have houses; that nature will take care of itself, and we should let the market decide.

But, we have learned time and again that by caring for nature we are caring for humanity.

As we look forward to our continuing partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and to our next 140 years, our calling at American Forests remains this: to find new ways to say both — wildlife AND human life; forests AND prosperity; nature AND progress. It’s not going to be easy. But, the reality is, to have either, we must have both.”

Celebrating 140 Years of Urban & Wildland Forest Protection & Restoration: Dr. Dwane Jones Speech

by American Forests

On Monday, October 26, 2015, American Forests hosted a ceremonial tree planting at the East Capitol Urban Farm in honor of its 140th anniversary and to recognize the signing of a new MOU with the U.S. Forest Service. During the ceremony, Dr. Dwane Jones, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences University of the District of Columbia, gave the following remarks:

Dr. Dwane Jones

Dr. Dwane Jones delivering his speech. Credit: American Forests.

“First, I want to thank the many, many partners involved in this effort — our local partners are invaluable and include: the DCBIA, American Forests, Groundwork Anacostia, the DC Housing Authority, DC Commission on the Arts, the District Department of Energy and the Environment, the Mayor’s Office, Metropolitan National Church and numerous others.

Each of these partners contributed to the continued success of the project in multiple ways, including, but not limited to, financial and technical assistance, expertise, community engagement and land resources.

We are especially indebted to American Forests for providing education and demonstration on the importance of an urban tree canopy and for connecting us with the DC Building Industry Association, which helped expand our initial vision into the multi-faceted urban space that you see today. The University of the District of Columbia’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (aka “CAUSES”) fully supports systemic initiatives like those of American Forests, that promote sustainable development in urban areas by helping to mitigate climate change, provide clean air and improve quality of life in urban environments.

I also want to thank the Urban Waters Federal Partnership — an initiative launched by this Administration to restore urban rivers, and the communities that surround them, with an emphasis on those communities that need the most help.

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership convened many federal agencies around this effort — like USDA’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Service and the USDA Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry program which provided funding and materials, Department of Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service for helping convene the federal family and help fund, plan and implement the nature playspace and the U.S. EPA for committing funds early on which helped encourage other federal Partners to consider their contribution.

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership helped also bring national entities, like American Forests and Walmart, to the table.

While today we celebrate 140 years of American Forests and its long-standing relationship with the US Forest Service, we do so standing on the site of a project that took a community of people and partners to make it happen. Thank you, American Forest, USDA and all of the partners engaged in this effort. We look forward to continuing our work with your organizations and many more opportunities to improve economic opportunities and quality for communities in the District of Columbia and across the world.”

Forest Digest – Week of October 19, 2015

by American Forests
Water in Forests

Credit: Cristie Wrazen.

Find out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest!

Why I’m Here: Making Life Greener for American City Dwellers

by American Forests

By Etienne Laffargue, Policy Intern

Eiffel Tower surrounded by trees.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris surrounded by trees. Credit: David Meenagh via Flickr.

On Thursday, October 15th, I began my internship at American Forests. In the building elevator, I could already feel the excitement and the butterflies in my stomach. After all, I had been anticipating this moment for more than two months and was very excited to arrive! As a Frenchman, I had to go through the process of obtaining a VISA to the United States, which tested my motivation to work with American Forests. As my new colleagues welcomed me to the team, I knew I had made the right choice. I felt at home and well taken care of from the beginning.

What I had come here to do was set in motion very quickly. After a short orientation, I was already on a conference call with our counterparts in national and local environmental and conservation organizations from across the country regarding the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The reason I chose American Forests out of all these organizations is that, here, I can specialize in trees and forests, both rural and urban. My goal as a Policy Intern is to help green and embellish cities across this continent. I believe, and scientists back this up, that the presence of trees in cities has positive effects on the health and wellbeing of its inhabitants. Don’t all city dwellers appreciate cool air as they commute on a hot summer afternoon? That is thanks to the trees. We all like our air pure and well oxygenated. And, this is also thanks to the trees. Do you like awakening to the songs of little birds? Well, thank the trees for hosting them. Do you enjoy sweet fragrances during the flowering season? Once again, thank you trees!

Whether it is in a rural or urban setting, I have noticed that trees contribute to an excellent quality of life for all of us. I feel harmonious when I look at them and sometimes play the game of imagining what they would tell me if I could converse with them. Trees are special, and I feel lucky to have them on our little planet.

By coming here I hope to contribute to American Forests’ mission and make life greener for city dwellers across America by taking care of nature and advocating for more trees in our cities. Enriching streets and parks with vegetation is an important step to harmonious urbanized areas, and, hoping that you share our enthusiasm for urban forests, I invite you to embark with us on this journey to preserve and restore the wonderful forests of America.

American Forests and Alcoa Foundation: Year Three of a Globally-Driven Collaboration

by American Forests

By Andrew Bell, Policy Intern

Hannover/Hildesheim region, Germany.

Hannover/Hildesheim region, Germany. Credit: Deutsche Umwelthilfe.

The Partnership for Trees’ torch was carried fervently into 2013, furthering a continual success characterized by community engagement and a thoughtful approach to outreach. With over 177,000 trees planted, 19 projects implemented and 1,200 acres of land restored, American Forests and Alcoa Foundation kept the foot on the gas in revitalizing the world’s green places. At the same time, the collaboration continued to make additional impacts that go well beyond the numbers.

“Environmental justice,” just hearing the phrase alone could easily conjure imagery of defending critically endangered wildlife, combatting illegal timber harvest and cracking down on reckless polluters. In reality, environmental justice is about far more than looking out for our treasured ecosystems. Rather, it’s about extending the bounds of stewardship to those who are most in need of a healthy and thriving environment. In New York, the Partnership for Trees is doing just that.

A severe ice storm in 1998 knocked the town of Massena’s urban forest coverage back a sizable amount. But, in collaboration with the Town of Massena Electric Department and their Green Efficient Massena program, a comprehensive effort is underway to ensure that the town continues to enjoy restored urban canopy. In 2013’s installment, 530 trees were planted over 40 acres of land in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. These urban trees go well beyond providing relief in the aesthetic sense; research shows that trees placed properly around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent, and that 100 million mature trees planted around residences can save 2 billion dollars annually in energy expenses.

For families that live from paycheck to paycheck — or even struggle to put food on the table — every dollar counts. And, in cases like Massena’s, communities can rely on their forests and trees to help stay the course in such taxing times. Such communities stand to benefit the most from what urban forests have to offer and, therefore, often deserve to be at the forefront of conservation efforts. Making room at the table for all is what environmental justice is truly about, and the Partnership for Trees is wholly dedicated to such a principle.

In Germany, American Forests and Alcoa Foundation found a different way to approach environmental justice. The country’s Hannover/Hildesheim region historically produced over 1,000 different kinds of apples, thanks to an abundance of rich biodiversity in their fruit tree orchards. Today, that plethora has been reduced to just several, while both wildlife and citizens alike suffer from the restrictive monoculture farming. To answer the call, the Partnership for Trees teamed up with German nonprofit Deutsche Umwelthilfe to implement their Meadow Orchards in Public Green Spaces initiative, planting 500 trees to help restore the region’s historically distinct biodiversity. These trees were planted across a variety of public lands, including schools and neighborhood gardens, so that they are easily accessible for all. This includes providing food for low-income families and opportunities for young students to be exposed to tree-care and environmental stewardship. Many of the tree species planted provide homes for wildlife, such as owls and dormice. As a whole, the Hannover/Hildesheim region’s fruit tree orchards can now serve both their community and their wildlife, while taking a resounding step forward in recapturing their rich, biologically diverse heritage.

Forest Digest – Week of October 12, 2015

by American Forests

Mangroves. Credit: Senorhorst Jahnsen (rabanito)/Flickr.

Find out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest!

GR25: Getting Down and Dirty with Tree Planting in 1995

by Megan Higgs
Forested land in Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Forested land in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Credit: David Hepworth via Flickr.

When one thinks of Oklahoma, one thinks of plains, great comfort food, and friendly down-to-earth residents. But, with vast expanses of grasslands, what does Oklahoma offer in terms of forests?

Oklahoma is actually considered a crossroads for a variety of forest types: western grassland meets eastern woodlands, while there are Ozark hardwoods, nearby Ponderosa pines from the Rockies and swampy cypresses near Louisiana all intermingling. In fact, despite ubiquitous images of grassland, approximately 28 percent of Oklahoma’s land is forested.

In 1995, American Forests helped contribute to this forested area in a relatively unconventional way. While we’re used to getting our hands dirty with tree planting, we decided to take it one step further — by replanting former landfills!

The story began one year earlier, as in 1994, Environmental Protection Agency Subtitle ‘D’ required cities in Oklahoma to either comply with new regulations on landfill operations or to close their landfills and utilize approved sites. Several communities closed their landfills as a response to this mandate, and many covered former landfills with topsoil and planted them with grass.

However, four communities in particular wished to do more. The communities of Clinton, Cordell, Thomas and Weatherford all agreed to instead transform these former landfills into viable forested spaces. After the sites were prepped appropriately, more than 61,000 trees across 290 acres were planted across these four former landfills. At all sites, the planted trees have worked to help prevent soil erosion, increase wildlife habitat, capture rainfall that would otherwise leak through the landfill to cause potential water problems and establish tree cover in Western Oklahoma where few wooded areas exist.

With an ever-increasing population within the United States, ensuring that environmental protective measures are in place is often a concern for many environmental organizations, including American Forests. We have continued this work of planting along former landfill space, including returning to Oklahoma for 1996’s Lindsay landfill planting and planting in Virginia for 2000’s West Ox Road Landfill Restoration. In addition to restoring aesthetic value, enhancing carbon storage and filtering runoff, these projects’ significance lies in demonstrating the feasibility of reforesting closed landfills and the benefits and values of ecologically intelligent end-use management.

Forest Digest – Week of October 5, 2015

by American Forests
E. O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson. Credit: Jim Harrison.

Find out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest!

  • In the fight to stop climate change, forests are a vital weaponThe Guardian
    Leading up to the climate change summit in Paris next month, many countries are announcing their commitments to reducing greenhouse gasses, and forests are playing a vital role. If deforestation ended, our damaged forests were restored and we protected our remaining forests, our forests could remove enough carbon to equal one-third of all current global emissions.
  • What is a forest? NASA/USGS mission helps answer the questionPhys.org
    A team from NASA, as well as other institutions, analyzed eight satellite-derived maps of the earth’s forest cover and discovered differing depictions by as much as 6 percent, or a land area the size of China. This prompted a new study that was published earlier this week in Nature Climate Change.
  • The absence of trees could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease — ScienceAlert.com
    Another report has been released discussing the benefits of living near trees, including reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, making you feel several years younger as well as providing the same health benefits resulting from a substantial salary increase.
  • E. O. Wilson explains why parks and nature are really good for your brainWashington Post
    In this interview E. O. Wilson, renowned Harvard biologist and conservationist, discusses human’s desire to be in natural environments and science’s solid basis for proving nature’s benefits for mankind.

10 Trees You’ll Fall in Love With This Season

by American Forests

By Amelia Loeb, Communications Intern

Autumn in the northern hemisphere means leaves transitioning through vibrant hues.  Here’s our list highlighting some of the most beautiful tree species to keep an eye out for throughout the fall. But don’t take our word for it, get outside and make your own list!


Sweet gum Tree Leaves in Fall Photo Credit: J. Micheal Raby via Flickr

Sweetgum leaves in fall. Credit: J. Micheal Raby via Flickr

Liquidambar styraciflua

Native to the Southeastern United States.
Can be seen as north as Chicago and as far south as Florida.
Leaves: Star-shaped; turn a glossy reddish-purple
Stump Scratcher: It’s documented that extracts from the sweet gum tree were used in ceremonies between the Aztec Emperor Montezuma and Spanish conqueror Cortez.




Red Maple

Red Maple leaves in Fall Photo credit: Greg Wagoner via Flickr

Red maple leaves in fall. Credit: Greg Wagoner via Flickr

Acer rubrum

Native to Northern Great Plains and Great Lakes areas.
Can be seen all over the United States.
Leaves: Turn ruby red to yellow-orange
Stump Scratcher: It’s the state tree of Rhode Island, but it remains a mystery why it was chosen.




Pin Oak

Pin Oak leaves in fall Photo credit: ekentir via Flickr

Pin oak leaves in fall. Credit: ekentir via Flickr

Quercus palustris

Native to Southern New England, Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Mid West.
Can be seen all over the United States except for southern Florida and parts of Texas.
Leaves: Turn scarlet to Bronze
Stump Scratcher: Pin oak acorns provide a food source for many woodland creatures, such as mallards, songbirds, squirrels and white-tailed deer.




American Beech

American Beech Tree Leaves Photo Credit to Suzanne Cadwell via Flickr

American Beech leaves in fall. Credit to Suzanne Cadwell via Flickr

Fagus grandifolia

Native to Novia Scotia and southern Canada.
Can be found across the United States in ornamental settings.
Leaves: Turn a vibrant to dusty yellow
Stump Scratcher: Until it fell in 1916, there was an American beech tree in Tennessee into which “D. Boone Cilled A Bar On Tree In Year 1760 ” was carved.




Eastern Redbud

Eastern Redbud Leaf Photo Credit Vincent Brassinne via Flickr

Eastern redbud leaf in fall. Credit Vincent Brassinne via Flickr

Cercis Canadensis
Native to North and Central America.
Can be seen across the United States, excluding places with hot, dry climates.
Leaves: Heart-shaped; turn a musky yellow
Stump Scratcher: Eastern redbuds produce beautiful pea-like, rose-colored flowers in spring, before they produce any leaves.




Quaking Aspen

Quaking Aspen leaves in fall Photo credit: Bryce Bradford via Flickr

Quaking Aspen leaves in fall. Credit: Bryce Bradford via Flickr

Populus tremuloides

Native to northwestern United States.
Can be found in the northwestern United States.
Leaves: Turn gold
Stump Scratcher: It’s “quaking” due to the slight breeze that rustles through the leaves.
Stump Scratcher 2: Holds the title for largest living organism, because it grows in clones. Trees up to 50-feet apart can be connected by underground stems.



Honey Locust

Honey Locust in Fall Photo Credit: Leonora Enking via Flickr

Honey locust leaves in fall. Credit: Leonora Enking via Flickr

Gleditisia triacanthos

Native to United States, notably from Pennsylvania to Nebraska.
Can be seen across the United States.
Leaves: Turn a bright yellow
Stump Scratcher:  Native Americans used honey locusts as a source of wood, medicine and a sweeting agent in food.




Alpine Larch

Apline Larch in Fall Photo Credit: Credit J Brew via Flickr

Apline larch leaves in fall. Credit: Credit J Brew via Flickr

Larix lyallii

Native to the northwest United States.
Can be seen in the southern and western United States.
Leaves: Needle-shaped; turn a golden-yellow
Stump Scratcher: Unlike most conifers (think pine-cones), alpine larches drop their needles before winter like a deciduous tree.





Gorgeous Trees Not Native to the Western Hemisphere

Japanese Persimmon

Japanese Persimmon Leaves in Fall Photo Credit: miheco via Flikr

Japanese persimmon leaves in fall. Credit: miheco via Flikr

Diospyros kaki

Native to China (it’s a misnomer).
Can be seen south of New England and Northern California in ornamental settings.
Leaves: Turn bright orange-yellow
Stump Scratcher: Its yellow-orange fruit can hang on past when the leaves drop off and are said to taste similar to an apricot.




 Crape Myrtle

Crape Myrtle leaves in Fall Photo credit: Brandi Korte via Flickr

Crape myrtle leaves in fall. Credit: Brandi Korte via Flickr

Lagerstroemia indica

Native to China.
Can be seen in the Southern United States and along the west coast.
Leaves: Turn yellow to fiery orange
Stump Scratcher: Fall isn’t just their time to shine. During spring, crape myrtle trees display plumes of bright pink flowers.



American Forests & Alcoa Foundation: Year Two of a Globally-Driven Collaboration

by American Forests

By Andrew Bell, Policy Intern

2012 Muskegon Conservation District project

Volunteers at the 2012 Muskegon Conservation District project. Credit: Muskegon Conservation District.

For part two of the “Partnership for Trees” celebratory blog series, we’ll take a glance back at 2012, a year that brought nine projects and more than 270,000 new trees to life. Here’s two more projects that showcase not only versatility and a commitment to restoration, but also the partnership’s shared vision of engaging communities for years to come.

At home in the U.S., American Forests and Alcoa Foundation teamed up with the Muskegon Conservation District to host a variety of hands-on, educational outreach and service events through the Woods for Wildlife Initiative. School children, Alcoa employees, interested landowners and the general public all came together to put forest management techniques to the test in their community. In 2012, nearly 23,000 trees were planted by 150 volunteers across 26 acres. That’s 150 more people now invested in their community’s forests. But, interestingly enough, the Muskegon Conservation District was familiar territory for the partnership in 2012 as it participated in the collaboration’s inaugural year. And it hasn’t left since! Each installment of the five-year, 200-acre, 100,000-tree alliance has seen a new project within the Muskegon Conservation District, making it one of the backbone projects of the partnership’s commitment, showing dedication to making a lasting impact and engaging communities for the long haul.

On the international front, an exciting opportunity took American Forests and Alcoa Foundation to West Africa for a project in Sangaredi, Guinea. The partnership connected with a local organization, Association Guinéenne d’Eveil au Développement Durable (AGEDD), to see their “Sustainable Environmental Management in Sangaredi” project flourish in the sweltering summer heat. Planting 28,500 trees across 148 acres of land, while utilizing the help of 2,500 volunteers over the course of the project’s lifespan, the project was a beacon of hope for a stronger community.

2012 “Sustainable Environmental Management in Sangaredi” project

Volunteers at the 2012 “Sustainable Environmental Management in Sangaredi” project in Guinea. Credit: Association Guinéenne d’Eveil au Développement Durable.

Thanks to mining, slash and burn agriculture and animal husbandry practices, Sangaredi’s forest ecosystems were at a breaking point. This wasn’t due to reckless abandon or excessive utilitarianism, but rather an unfortunate price to pay for sustaining a developing community. So, when American Forests and Alcoa Foundation shook hands with AGEDD, all parties involved knew there was much more at stake in this project than restoring a forest. And, as a result, far more was gained.

The 28,500 trees planted were made up of a variety of species, including cashew, mango, palm and African mahogany among others. Such a diverse group is tethered by one commonality: they’re all deemed “useful” by the community and provide much more value when alive and thriving than when cut down. Whether considered medicinal, edible or high-quality timber, all of the species planted contribute vital and practical community services while fostering a green economy. With the partnership’s help, AGEDD was able to teach this practice, known as agroforestry, to the 2,500 volunteers. Alcoa Guinea and AGEDD representatives were joined by villagers, students, school authorities and community leaders in this effort, all working hand-in-hand to strengthen a community driven by a healthy and thriving forest ecosystem. Those volunteers have since passed the torch to an additional 1,500 forest stewards, all engaged in caring for this vital ecosystem for the many years beyond the program’s closure. As the age-old proverb suggests, the American Forests and Alcoa Foundation partnership with AGEDD has taught a community how to fish, in hopes that they will be fed for generations to come.