GR25: Restoring Tropical Forests in Hawaii in 1992

by Megan Higgs

ʻApapane is a species of Hawaiian honeycreeper, that is endemic to Hawaii. Credit: Caleb Slemmons via Flickr.

Lush tropical forests, brightly colored birds and pristine beaches: here in our D.C.-based office, these are all images that certainly evoke envy on a cold, misty December day. They also represent the next site of our 25-year Global ReLeaf journey: Hawaii, the incredibly biodiverse archipelago that comprises our 50th state.

But, with how naturally beautiful Hawaii is, why is there a need to plant more trees?

By essentially being formed as an incredibly isolated entity — an archipelago surrounded by ocean, and created by volcanic hot spots — Hawaii became one of the most uniquely biodiverse regions on the planet, with thousands of unique plant and animal species calling the islands home. In addition, the majority of these species — up to 90 percent — are only found in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, rampant land clearing, agriculture, urbanization and invasive threats have cleared up to 2/3 of the original dry and wet forests and have given Hawaii another nickname — the “extinction capital of the world.”  In fact, nearly 75 percent of all extinctions in the country have occurred in Hawaii, and the islands are still in trouble. While the islands comprise a mere 0.2 percent of the land mass within the entire U.S., they contain more than 30 percent of the nation’s federally listed endangered species due to habitat loss and competition from invasive insects, weeds, diseases, farm animals and more.  Colorful and exotic characters, including the Hawaiian crow, the Hawaiian monk seal, crested honeycreepers and O’ahu tree snails, all continue to suffer from habitat loss and degradation.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat this rampant loss. Biocontrol measures have successfully targeted invasive species removal. Ecotourism on the islands has brought attention and education to many about the importance of conserving this vital resource.  And, of course, forest restoration can be a crucial puzzle piece.

Way back in 1992, we ventured into completing our first landmark project in the islands by planting 32,300 native Acacia koa hardwood trees to provide habitat for several species of native Hawaiian birds, from the crimson ‘Apapane to the pudgy yellow ‘Akiapōlā‘au. This initiative, which marked the first of five years there, worked to restore habitat for these and other native species in Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge. Furthermore, they worked to combat another threat to Hawaii’s many native species: Koa helps create an overstory, which can allow native plants to recapture the site from non-native vegetative competition.

In addition, for those keeping up with American Forests trivia, we actually planted our 1 millionth tree within this project (have you heard about our 50 millionth?)!  As such, this project marked the beginning of a fantastic initiative showing that more work still did — and continues to — need to be done, and we will make sure to continue to do it!

Forest Digest – Week of November 23, 2015

by American Forests
pine cones

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

10 Reasons to Be Thankful for Forests

by Ashlan Bonnell

As we take time during the holiday season to focus on the things we are most thankful for, we think it’s important to take a moment to consider just a few of the many reasons we should be thankful for forests and the benefits they provide us.

1. Forests provide clean water.
Approximately 180 million people depend on forests for water.

More than 1/2 of U.S. drinking water originates in forests.

2. Forests clean our air.
Trees help reduce pollutants by taking them up from soils and water through their roots.

One mature tree absorbs CO2 at the rate of 48 pounds per year.

3. Forests help the wildlife we love thrive.
Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. In the U.S. alone, forests house 9,195 vascular plants and 1,165 vertebrate species.

More than 5 million terrestrial species depend on forests for their survival.

4. Forests in our cities help keep us safe.
Urban forests have been linked to lower crime rates, a greater sense of public safety, and increased community involvement by residents.

Areas with trees experience lower crime rates.

5. Forests help keep us healthy.
Research shows that nature can improve both mental and physical health as well as reduce recovery time.

Trees save more than 850 human lives a year and prevent 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.

6. Forests provide economic benefits.
Urban trees in the continental U.S. store 770 million tons of carbon, valued at $14.3 billion. Plus, trees can increase home property value by 10-20 percent.

Financial benefits of 100 properly placed trees over 40 years worth $225,000.

7. Forests help us combat climate change.
Currently, plants absorb and store about 15 percent of the United States’ total carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation and energy sectors.

Forests are the largest forms of carbon storage, or sinks, in the United States.

8. Forests allow us to use less energy.
100 million mature trees growing around residences in the U.S. can save about $2 billion annually in energy costs.

Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce AC costs by 30%

9. Forests provide fun AND jobs.
Today there are 155 national forests in 42 states, plus one in Puerto Rico, comprising almost 190 million acres — 8.5 percent of the nation’s total land area. These forests help sustain the $646 billion a year recreation industry.

Recreation provides 6.1 million jobs to Americans.

10. Forests help us relax.
Forests help us connect with nature. Plus, urban forests can help reduce noise pollution, allowing us to relax and focus better.

For every 30 meters of trees, noise is reduced by up to 50 percent.

For original sources, as well as more interesting facts, visit our Forest Facts page.

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

by American Forests

By Andrew Bell, Policy Intern

One of our projects in Brazil with partners Alcoa Foundation and Associação Empresarial de Tubarão.

One of our projects in Brazil with partners Alcoa Foundation and Associação Empresarial de Tubarão.

In the final installment of this five-part glance at the Partnership for Trees, we’ll briefly look at a handful of 2015’s ongoing projects sponsored by this storied collaboration. But, perhaps most importantly, there is a distinction to be made; this may be the last piece of our celebratory storytelling, but it’s far from the last story that will be told. The plantings and restoration programs going on at this very moment don’t signify the very end of the partnership, but rather the promise of a companionship in conservation that has more to achieve.

In the states, the Partnership for Trees is teaming up with Anacostia Watershed Society this year to implement a portion of their Wells Run Stream Buffer Enhancement Project. By replacing invasive species in the area with 110 trees, the project is increasing storm water retention and curbing water pollution in Wells Run. All the while, 210 volunteers from nearby University Park Elementary School will be provided with a relevant and close-to-home outdoor education experience.

Meanwhile, Brazil is providing one of the greatest examples that American Forests and Alcoa Foundation aren’t the only ones having a monumental year. Nearly 30,000 trees are to be planted across 54 acres of land thanks to four separate projects across the country. Themes of promoting agroforestry, restoring ecological corridors, re-establishing nearly extinct species and improving watershed health span these four projects, all while engaging communities who are dependent on thriving forests for sustaining their quality of life.

After five years, we can throw around some breathtaking numbers: more than a million new trees planted, 4,100 acres of land revitalized and nearly 100 projects supported. But, for American Forests and Alcoa Foundation, there is still work to be done, both in alliance as well as individually, both in the U.S. and around the world. There are wildlands to be restored, urban forest canopies to see flourish and a global community to engage in caring for both. It’s an endeavor that can never truly be “finished,” and that fact is understandably daunting to some. But, like the forests we fight to conserve, there’s beauty to be found in our calling’s cyclical nature.

For all of the trees we plant, we aim to inspire as many burgeoning and curious minds. For every acre cured, we equip the communities who live on them with the knowledge and guidance to ensure their care. Forest by forest, state by state, country by country, we provide the flint for the burning passion of tomorrow’s stewards. So, when the day comes to lay down our shovels, the passing of the proverbial torch will not be with one flame from one hand to another. Rather, it will be the raising of many — spanning oceans and borders alike — all ready to carry on the ultimate deed for our planet.

Forest Digest – Week of November 16, 2015

by American Forests
Bosco Verticale building in Milan

Bosco Verticale building in Milan. Credit: Alessandro Bonvini via Flickr.

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

Holiday Gifts That Give Back

by Ashlan Bonnell
Wrapped Gift

Credit: Pete via Flickr

Around this time of the year, we start frequently hearing the phrase “it’s better to give than to receive.” It’s certainly true, but what if this holiday season, you could give in two ways with just one gift? One great way to do this is to give the gift of trees to your loved ones. The trees you plant in your friends’, or loved ones’, names will provide so many benefits to not only our environment, but all of us that enjoy it as well!

But, maybe you prefer the thrill of watching someone tear open a more tangible wrapped gift? At American Forests, we are privileged to work with a number of corporate partners whose generous donations help make much of the work we do possible. So, we’ve created a list of gift ideas that can help you spread twice the cheer this holiday season by giving to your friends and family and to a good cause!

Preparing for the Holiday Season

As you prepare for the holiday season, here are a couple environmentally conscious options!

eCO2 GreetingsPlanning on sending a holiday card from your business this year? Consider opting for a more eco-friendly route and send an ecard! Not only are you using less paper, but for every ecard ordered from eCO2 Greetings, they will plant 10 trees with us! So far, they have offset more than 76,000 tons of carbon through trees planted. You could add even more to that!

Tiny PrintsFor personal holiday cards to friends and family, we’ve got you covered, too! Tiny Prints offers all kinds of creative holiday card options, from photo cards all the way to ornament cards! But, on top of providing custom cards, Tiny Prints has partnered with us to plant trees to offset their paper usage!

Whole Foods Market®If you’re opting for a live Christmas tree to decorate your home with holiday cheer, head over to your local Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods Market has a great selection of Christmas trees in a range of sizes, but they have also partnered with us to plant a tree for each one they sell!

Green Gift Ideas

Here are some great gift ideas for those you care about the most!

S’well BottleWhether for the avid hiker, the fitness fanatic or anyone who drinks liquids (so, pretty much everyone you know!), a S’well bottle is a perfect gift option. Not only are these double-walled stainless steel bottles handy and efficient, their Wood collection is gorgeous in its elegant mimicking of natural wood grain! Plus, S’well partners with us to plant trees in threatened forest ecosystems across the country.

UncommonGoodsFor a one-of-a-kind, unique gift, take a look at the range of gift ideas from UncommonGoods. From home décor and kitchen items, to beautiful jewelry and accessories, to handmade items, UncommonGoods has the perfect gift for anyone (or everyone) on your list this year. And, with their Better to Give campaign, you can select American Forests as your charity of choice and plant a tree for your purchase!

OriginsFor the lover of natural (and amazing!) beauty products, look no further than Origins’ 2015 ornament, stuffed with samples of some of Origins’ most popular skincare products! For every ornament sold this holiday season, Origins has partnered with us to plant a tree!

Woodchuck, USAAmazing wood journals, stylish (yet, rugged…in the best kind of way!) tablet and phone covers or a range of accessories, Woodchuck, USA’s gifts will help put nature back into everyday life! Through their Buy One, Plant One campaign, they will plant a tree with us for every product sold. Plus, you’ll get a certificate with the location of the tree your purchase planted.

RevealThese days, so many people get a new tech item during the holidays. Why not compliment it with a new case! Reveal offers all kinds of phone and tablet cases made from eco-friendly materials. And, with their Project Replant campaign, Reveal will plant a tree with us for each Nature Tech Collection product sold!

WeWoodTake a new twist on a tradition holiday gift. Watches have been a go-to gift for years. So, why not spice up an old favorite with a WeWood wooden watch. WeWood offers both men’s and women’s watches, and, as part of their You Buy a Watch, We Plant a Tree campaign, they’ll plant a tree for each watch sold!

Eddie BauerFor the adventure-seeker in your life, Eddie Bauer has some of the finest, and most stylish, outdoor apparel and gear! Plus, when you make a purchase at Eddie Bauer, you have the option to donate to American Forests to plant trees in threatened forest ecosystems.

GR25: Reforesting Former Strip Mines in 1993

by Megan Higgs
Stark comparison between strip-mined land and untouched land in background.

Stark comparison between strip-mined land and untouched land in background. Credit: Boyd Norton via wikimedia commons.

As our journey continues in 1993, we venture into reforesting the aftermath of a practice that had been going on for much longer than 22 years — and a venture that is still equally important today, as evidenced by both past and present Global ReLeaf work.

This undertaking involves none other than the reclamation and reforestation of land affected by strip mining. Strip mining, which involves the removal of a long strip of overlying rock and soil, is most commonly used to mine coal in the United States, as it is less labor-intensive and generally reaps more coal than underground mining. Having first gained traction in the mid-sixteenth century, strip mining — which includes open-pit and mountaintop removal mining — is the most predominant form of mining coal in Appalachia and the Midwest.

However, the consequences of such mining practices can be devastating without proper environmental remediation. Strip mining can leave a permanent scar on landscapes, destroying forests and wildlife habitats at the site of the mines. Soil erosion and loss of soil fertility can result. In addition, increased risks of chemical contamination through the seepage of upturned minerals, polluted waterways, flooding and dust and noise pollution are all common risks.

This disturbance occurs on a fairly vast scale throughout the U.S. as well — between 1930 and 2000, coal mining altered approximately 5.9 million acres of natural landscape, much of it formerly forest. After mining, it can often be difficult for the land to support a landscape as complex and biodiverse as a forest, as the remaining soil is often extremely damaged and fragile.

With all that said, if there is one thing American Forests strives to do, it’s to restore and protect our nation’s forests. So, in 1993, we completed our first mining reclamation and reforestation project in Coshocton County, Ohio by planting 50,000 mixed hardwoods in an area that had been strip mined from 1963-1987. While some grasslands had developed in the six years prior to our planting, the land would have taken many years to begin to sprout any forested areas. As such, we jumpstarted this recovery with the help of local Boy Scouts, among others, to return this area to its former glory.

Our work has not stopped there, however. Just last year, in 2014, we undertook a similar endeavor in West Virginia, where we planted 55,000 trees in an area formerly used for mining to the benefit of dozens of wildlife, including the West Virginia northern flying squirrel, the ruffled grouse and the Cheat Mountain salamander. However, we, as humans, are never far behind with these benefits — this area serves as the headwaters for clean drinking water to millions in the Ohio River Valley and Washington, D.C. area, and these 55,000 trees are serving to prevent erosion and control sediment in our drinking water for years to come.

Forest Digest – Week of November 9, 2015

by American Forests
A forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, near Point-Noire Diosso.

A forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, near Point-Noire Diosso. Credit: jbdodane via Flickr.

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

Plus, check out just a handful of the news stories covering the planting of our 50 millionth tree this week!

Clear, Cold & Perfect: American Forests Plants 50 Millionth Tree alongside Eddie Bauer, Ryan Reynolds

by American Forests

By Lea Sloan, Vice President of Communications

Eddie Bauer and Philanthropic Ambassador Ryan Reynolds Plant 50 Millionth Tree in Celebration of 20-Year Partnership with American Forests on November 11, 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, California.

Eddie Bauer and Philanthropic Ambassador Ryan Reynolds Plant 50 Millionth Tree in Celebration of 20-Year Partnership with American Forests on November 11, 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, California.

As Eddie Bauer president and CEO, Mike Egeck, said to the media on the morning of November 11, 2015, “This is the kind of weather Eddie Bauer clothes are made for.”

November 11th dawned to a clear blue sky and a crisp 27 degrees for the planting of American Forests’ 50 millionth tree in California’s San Bernardino Mountains. Not only was our president and CEO, Scott Steen, also present to speak to the media for the big occasion, so was Ryan Reynolds,  the new philanthropic celebrity ambassador for Eddie Bauer’s partnership with American Forests.

The gorgeously styled table and setting outside on the shores of Lake Arrowhead under magnificent 100-year-old Ponderosa pines set the perfect backdrop for the celebration of 20 years of planting together with Eddie Bauer, adding up to 6.5 million trees in 150 different projects across the country and around the world.

Following the media event, we all headed up the mountain for the planting of “Gordon,” as Ryan Reynolds dubbed the seedling, a baby Ponderosa pine, who is a girl, he wryly informed all. “It’s a good Canadian name.”

After the planting of “Gordon,” Mike and Scott joined the teams from American Forests and Eddie Bauer and the media to enthusiastically plant another 40 Ponderosa seedlings in our Mountain Communities Wildfire ReLeaf  project, local partners with whom American Forests has planted trees for a decade.

We now look forward to a very exciting year ahead with Eddie Bauer and Ryan Reynolds. And, American Forests and Mountain Communities project manager, Cheryl Nagy, were thrilled to get the good news that over and above Eddie Bauer’s plans for planting with us for 2016, they have committed to an additional 20,000 trees for this gorgeous, rugged mountain setting.

So, as we celebrate the milestone of planting 50 million trees, here’s to 50 million more with the help of our incredible partners like Eddie Bauer.

Learn more about our partnership with Eddie Bauer and how you can help:

Decor at the ceremony for planting of the 50 millionth tree in celebration of 20-Year Partnership with American Forests on November 11, 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, California.

Decor at the ceremony for planting of the 50 millionth tree in celebration of 20-Year Partnership with American Forests on November 11, 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Eddie Bauer)


Our 50 millionth tree!

Our 50 millionth tree!


American Forests President & CEO, Scott Steen, Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, Greg Meyer, and Vice President of Communications, Lea Sloan (Left to Right).

American Forests President & CEO, Scott Steen, Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, Greg Meyer, and Vice President of Communications, Lea Sloan (Left to Right).

The Meaning of 50 Million Trees: Scott Steen Speech

by American Forests
American Forests President & CEO, Scott Steen

American Forests President & CEO, Scott Steen, speaking at our 50 millionth tree planting on November 11, 2015 in Lake Arrowhead, California.

Scott Steen, president and CEO of American Forests, gave the following speech on Wednesday, November 11th, at the planting of American Forests’ 50 millionth tree.

“There is a Chinese proverb that says ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’

Well, 25 years ago, American Forests started the Global ReLeaf program with a simple, compelling mission — to find threatened, ecologically important forests, and to fund tree planting initiatives that can make a real difference in restoring these landscapes to health.

Today, on this mountain, we will plant our 50 millionth tree as part of the Global ReLeaf program. To put that number into context, 50 million mature trees, laid end to end, could encircle the globe 30 times. Fifty million trees could forest a treeless plot of land nearly 40 times the size of Los Angeles’ Griffith Park.

And, while 50 million might be a hard number to get your head around, the reality is this:

Every one of these trees matters.

Every one of these trees is helping to clean our air and water.

Every one provides oxygen for us to breathe.

Every one provides food and shelter for wildlife.

And, when combined together in a forest, their impact is exponentially greater.

‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’

Eddie Bauer began planting trees with American Forests 20 years ago.

Since the beginning of our collaboration, we have planted more than 6.5 million trees in more than 150 forest restoration projects. And today, Eddie Bauer is renewing and expanding that commitment.

Our work together has made our water and air cleaner, and our cities greener. Together, we have helped cool the planet and slow the creep of climate change. And together, we’ve protected and restored habitat for dozens of threatened and endangered species, from grizzly bears to gopher tortoises.

Much of our partnership has focused on restoring forests that have been profoundly damaged by wildfire — much of it here in California.

This place is a great example.

Back in the early 2000s, this community watched as waves of pine beetles made their way across the mountain, turning beautiful pine forests red as the trees lost their needles and died.

And then, to add insult to injury, the great Fire Siege of 2003 struck.

Fifteen separate wildfires raged throughout Southern California that October. On this mountain alone, 90,000 acres of forest burned. Within a 25 mile radius, 60,000 people were evacuated.

When they returned, 450 homes had been destroyed and thousands of people were left homeless. Their beautiful mountain forest was reduced to fields of blackened shards. The diverse wildlife of this landscape vanished. And the tourist economy, based on the community’s natural beauty, vanished with it.

But then, the people of these mountains did a remarkable thing. They decided to not merely rebuild the homes, but to rebuild the forest itself.

New organizations were born, and new alliances formed. Neighbors, businesses, Boy Scouts, college students and even the tourists themselves were enlisted to collect seeds, prepare soil, and grow and plant trees. Distant communities got in on the action. And, from the very beginning, American Forests joined hands with these families, friends and neighbors to bring this forest back to life.

Since then, American Forests has helped this community plant 400,000 trees here. Cheryl Nagy, one of the leaders in this effort, told me that American Forests’ involvement has been critical to making this work possible.

This is at the core of what American Forests does.

We find important projects that can make a significant difference in real places and to real living things. And then, working in concert with local teams who know the “ground truth” of a place, we create positive and lasting change.

We do this because, quite simply, forests are essential for supporting life on our planet.

So, if you care about wildlife, think forests.

If you are concerned about climate change, think forests.

If you appreciate how important biodiversity is for human life, think forests.

If you drink water, think forests.

If you breathe air, think forests.

Today, I am delighted to welcome Ryan Reynolds as a partner and ambassador for this work. Ryan’s deep love of nature and commitment to the environment make him a perfect messenger  for the important role that forests play in the overall health of the planet.

As we plant American Forests’ 50 millionth tree today, my hope is that this is merely a symbol of the millions more we will plant together and a recognition that, while the best time to plant a tree may be 20 years ago, the second best time is now.”