American Forests Celebrates 140th Birthday!

by American Forests

Today, September 10, 2015, American Forests is celebrating 140 years of protecting and restoring forest ecosystems! While we are excited to commemorate this milestone as an organization, we know that the work we have done and will continue to do would not be possible without the support of so many of you. So, thank you!

As we celebrate our 140th anniversary, we have had the opportunity to reflect on the many events and accomplishments that have defined the history of our organization while also looking forward to the work to be done in the future. This timeline represents some of those important memories and future goals. Plus, you can read even more about many of these events by flipping through your Spring/Summer 2016 issue of American Forests magazine or reading the articles here.

  • Eden Park, site of the first American Forestry Congress

    Eden Park, site of the first American Forestry Congress

    1875
    Led by Dr. John Aston Warder, concerned citizens found the American Forestry Association (AFA), now known as American Forests, to “protect the existing forests of the country from unnecessary waste.”

  • 1882
    AFA holds the first American Forestry Congress with a tree planting in Eden Park attended by 50,000 people.
  • 1888
    Mrs. Ellen Call Long presents “Notes on Some of the Forest Features of Florida,” the paper that would lead to prescribed burning, to AFA.
  • 1891
    After four years of work, AFA’s promotion of a bill that grants the president power to set aside forest reserves – a precursor to national forests – is successful. The same year, President Harrison proclaims nearly 13 million acres of forest reserves.
  • 1894
    American Forests magazine debuts.
  • 1911
    AFA succeeds in passing the Weeks Act, allowing for acquisition of forest reserves to protect watersheds and marking the first time in history that the federal government had purchased land specifically in recognition of its ecological services.
  • First Lady Harding plants a memorial tree

    First Lady Harding plants a memorial tree

    1921
    AFA launches memorial tree planting campaigns. First Lady Mrs. Warren G. Harding plants first memorial tree in Washington, D.C.

  • 1923
    American Forests publishes the first of many articles by Aldo Leopold.
  • 1924
    AFA gifts President and Mrs. Coolidge a living 35-foot Norway spruce planted near the White House on Sherman Plaza. It is the first living National Christmas Tree.
  • 1928
    AFA creates the Dixie Crusaders to educate people about wildfire.
  • 1930
    AFA conducts Congressional information campaigns that lead to the creation and protection of national parks in the Florida Everglades, Grand Tetons and Olympic mountains.
  • 1933
    AFA works with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create the Civilian Conservation Corps. We also launch Trail Riders of the Wilderness.
  • 1940
    The national register of American Forests Champion Trees, then called American Big Trees Report, is established.
  • President Eisenhower presents Smokey Bear statuette to AFA President Don Johnston

    President Eisenhower presents Smokey Bear statuette to AFA President Don Johnston (center)

    1958
    AFA is presented a Smokey Bear statuette in recognition of its years of forest fire advocacy and education work.

  • 1968
    With the help of AFA, a new Task Force on a National Program for Wildfire Control is formed.
  • 1970
    Along with five other organizations, AFA is invited to submit its position and policy on clear-cutting by the Council on Environmental Quality.
  • 1982
    AFA launches its Urban Forests program and convenes the National Urban Forest Conference.
  • 1986
    After years of advocacy by AFA, President Ronald Reagan signs the 1985 Farm Bill, including the new Conservation Reserve program, into law.
  • 1988
    AFA announces Global ReLeaf, a program of tree planting for ecosystem restoration that addresses global challenges through local action.
  • 1989
    After decades of advocacy and policy work, AFA wins the battle to convince Congress to pass a national urban forestry policy.
  • Atlanta tree cover satellite images

    Atlanta tree cover satellite images

    1990
    The first Global ReLeaf forest established in Au Sable, Mich. Christopher Reeve stars in Global ReLeaf PSAs for the Discovery Channel.

  • 1991
    Global ReLeaf is awarded a President’s Citation for Innovation. First international Global ReLeaf project is established in Hungary.
  • 1992
    AFA is renamed American Forests as a reflection of its conservation focus.
  • 1996
    American Forests introduces CITYgreen software to analyze ecosystem and economic benefits of urban tree canopies and green spaces. Atlanta is the first satellite tree cover analysis.
  • 1998
    Forest Policy Center gives national policy voice to community-based ecosystem management. American Forests premieres Silent Witnesses, narrated by actor James Whitmore, on public television.
  • 1999
    Global ReLeaf plants its 10 millionth tree. American Forests partners with the White House to plant Millennium Groves in every state and territory.
  • Oprah's Angel Network joins with AF to plant trees

    Oprah’s Angel Network joins with AF to plant trees

    2000
    The Global ReLeaf program undertakes Trees for Tigers to help save Siberian tigers from extinction.

  • 2002
    American Forests conducts Freedom Trees, Patriot Trees and Memorial Trees to honor victims and heroes of 9/11.
  • 2009
    After a year of advocacy by American Forests, the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act to establish a federal emergency fund for the suppression of sever wildfires is signed into law. American Forests joins Oprah’s Angel Network to plant trees around Habitat for Humanity for those displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
  • 2010
    American Forests joins the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC) advocating for legislation relating to urban forestry and green infrastructure. American Forests throws its support behind President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative.
  • 2011
    American Forests throws its support behind Representative Matsui’s TREES Act that would support programs run by electric utilities to work with tree-planting nonprofits to use strategically planted shade trees in order to reduce residential energy demand.
  • 2012
    American Forests launches the Endangered Western Forests initiative – focusing, in its first stage, on the dangers facing the high-elevation whitebark pine of the Greater Yellowstone Area.
  • The first Community ReLeaf planting event took place is Asbury Park, N.J. with sponsor Bank of America Foundation

    The first Community ReLeaf planting event took place is Asbury Park, N.J. with sponsor Bank of America Foundation

    2013
    American Forests launches Community ReLeaf, a program dedicated to the assessment, restoration and monitoring of urban forests based on research and conversations with urban forest managers.

  • 2014
    American Forests creates the Big Tree Working Groups, convening a diverse array of experts to assist the program by addressing some of the tough questions inherent in crowning champion trees.
  • 2015
    American Forests plants 50 millionth Global ReLeaf tree and undertakes 1,000th Global ReLeaf project.
  • 2016
    American Forests launches the Urban Innovation Lab, an online community for urban forest practitioners.
  • 2020
    American Forests expands Community ReLeaf to 20 cities.
  • 2075
    American Forests celebrates its 200th Anniversary.

2015 Trees Please Photo Contest Winners!

by American Forests

This summer, we held our first ever Trees Please photo contest, and it was a major success. Whether a simple, yet stunning landscape, a representation of the sheer size and scale of trees or a close look at trees’ powerful details, the photos each conveyed a different story. With so many gorgeous shots to choose from, it was a difficult decision. But, we are thrilled to highlight our 2015 Tree Please winning photographs!

Grand Prize Winner: “Checking out the Redwood Forest”

Checking Out the Redwood Forest

Photographer: Yinghai Lu (CA); Location: Bull Creek Flat in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Calif.

Honorable Mention: “Independence I”

Independence I

Photographer: Jason Liske (CA); Location: Sierra Nevada, Calif.

Honorable Mention: “Prairie Creek”

Prairie Creek

Photographer: Mario Vaden (OR); Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, near Orick, Calif.

Honorable Mention: “Horse Chesnut at Dawn”

Horse Chesnut at Dawn

Photographer: Diana Fraser (MD); Location: Family farm in Maryland

People’s Choice Winner: “Tree Love in Vermont”

Tree Love in Vermont

Photographer: Madeline Ligenza (VT); Location: Mt. Philo, Vt.


Forest Digest – Week of August 31, 2015

by American Forests

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

  • Mount McKinley

    Mount McKinley in Alaska. Photo by Christoph Strässler/Flickr.

    Lots of Trees to Hug: Study Counts 3 Trillion Trees on Earth New York Times
    A new study that was just released reveals that there are now more than three trillion trees growing on earth. While this is seven times more than researchers previously thought, it remains alarmingly less than it used to be.

  • The World Lost Two Portugals’ Worth of Forest Last YearTakePart
    As demand for palm oil increases and, therefore, deforestation continues to take its toll on forests, a new study has revealed that, last year alone, we lost enough forest to cover the country of Portugal two times, equaling 45 million acres.
  • Mount McKinley Will Again Be Called DenaliThe Guardian
    This week during President Obama’s visit to Alaska, he gave an executive order that renamed Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S., its original, native name of Denali. The restoration of its native name holds cultural significance for local Alaskan tribes.

GR25: Planting for Eagles in 1998

by Megan Higgs
Bald Eagle

Photo by Chuck Fazio

Stars, stripes and bald eagles: few symbols are as ubiquitous and enmeshed with American culture as these three. Indeed, the American flag and the bald eagle alike have been idolized as symbols of bravery, courage, resilience and many other qualities that the U.S.A. prides and cherishes. The eagle has a widespread hold across the U.S., as well – the bird’s native range covers much of the continental U.S., as well as Canada and northern Mexico.

However, as many Americans know, our national animal’s populations have not always been safe – in fact, the species was declared a federally listed endangered species in 1967. But, how is the eagle doing now, and what could have caused such a decline?

Throughout the mid-20th century following World War II, a supposed “wonder chemical” of a pesticide called DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) was widely used for both insect-borne disease prevention and for insect control for crops, gardens and homes. Of course, DDT is now known for its notoriety in the famed 1962 environmental science book, Silent Spring. Throughout the controversial classic’s pages, author Rachel Carson penned the numerous detrimental effects of DDT on human and wildlife populations – in particular, the effects on birds. As Carson dramatically wrote:

“There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings … Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change … There was a strange stillness … The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of scores of bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.”

While not lethal to adult bald eagles, DDT is attributed to disastrous effects on the birds’ reproductive cycles.  DDT interfered particularly with the eagle’s calcium metabolism, causing many birds to be sterile. Female eagles that were still able to reproduce often laid eggs with extremely brittle shells, causing most offspring to die before they were able to hatch.  Additionally, rampant loss of habitat and hunting dwindled the bird’s numbers throughout much of the first half of the 20th century.

A nationwide ban of DDT took place in 1972, and over time, bald eagle populations have begun to rebound. By the 1950s, breeding pairs had dwindled to only 412 nationwide; it is now estimated that that number has risen to over 9,700 across the lower 48 contiguous states as of 2006.

In 1998, American Forests contributed to this monumental comeback by planting 12,650 trees in the breeding and wintering ranges of bald eagles through a large part of the Klamath winter roosting area. This project implemented part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Bald Eagle Management Recovery Plan, a plan that encompassed seven states (including California) and worked to restore a minimum of 800 breeding pairs throughout the plan’s range. The number of breeding pairs has now approached twice this minimum goal thanks to the halting of DDT usage, strict restrictions against hunting or trapping eagles and habitat restoration programs such as these.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the bald eagle from the list of endangered species in August 2007; however, the bird remains endangered in California. Regardless, the future is looking bright for a bird that has embodied a symbol of perseverance throughout the U.S. – bald eagles were found to be nesting in 28 of California’s counties by the close of the 1990s, up from a mere eight counties in 1977.


Forest Digest – Week of August 24, 2015

by American Forests
Boreal forest

Boreal forest at Indian Point on Taku River. Photo credit: Taku River Tlingit First Nation

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

  • Gabon: protecting vital forests, and communitiesThe Guardian
    Take a look at how efforts in Gabon are attempting to balance the demands for forests to meet the immediate needs of locals with forests role in preserving biodiversity and combating the changing climate.

Why I’m Here: The Impact of Increased Housing Development on Our Forests & Our Emotions

by American Forests

By Andrew Bell, Policy Intern

Forest in West Virginia

Forests provided a the perfect playground for policy intern Andrew Bell near his home in West Virginia. Photo by Andrew Bell

As the fall semester policy intern, I think a fitting introduction would express how I arrived at this destination and how protecting and restoring American forests has become our shared mission. I was born and raised in northeastern West Virginia. The state is affectionately referred to as “Wild, Wonderful” and for good reason, with the Blue Ridge Mountains and crisp whitewater rapids cascading with similar grandeur. I humbly thank my home state for its large contribution to the young man that I am today.

But, my experience with the great outdoors has not come without its fair share of heartbreaks, with the most recent of these being perhaps the single greatest reason that I’ve strived for this opportunity at American Forests.

I’m sure many of you had “your spot” growing up, and may still have one today. Whether it’s a secret swimming hole, a stump for reading on or even a garden-getaway in a big city, we have heard nature’s inexplicable call and found solace and respite there.

A small clearing atop a grand limestone cliff was my spot. Its unparalleled vista and brilliant sunsets made for the most awe-inspiring gallery for miles. While my pursuit of higher education took me to Arizona, where the desert wilderness is undeniably sublime, the majesty of the Appalachians and that cliff always welcomed me home as family.

But, one fall’s return home was marred by unfamiliar loss and a confrontation with a now-inescapable trend. The top of that cliff (and most of what led to it) had been cleared entirely, with its treasures being replaced by the foundation of what appeared to be something of a mansion.

I traversed what I thought to be the path I had hiked so many times before, but its bareness was blinding. I searched with pitiful fervor for something of a landmark, but that once-welcoming sanctuary was cold and silent.

One man built his mansion while unknowingly destroying another’s. Tragically so, I’m more than aware that I am not alone in having such a story. It is one of many truths embodying our troubled relationship with nature, and one that is virtually inescapable in our rapidly developing country. According to the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Forests on the Edge reports from 2005 and 2009,  my slice of West Virginia  graduated from the “less than 50th percentile” to the upper end of the “90th percentile” in terms of private forests bound to experience increased housing development over a 30-year span. In just four short years, their estimate had skyrocketed in the ballpark of 25 percent.

And, West Virginia is not alone: Its Eastern counterparts, such as Florida, the Carolinas and Maryland, are all suffering from a comparable fate. And, in some cases, states along the West Coast, like California, are looking at numbers twice as large. Factoring in the 10 million acres of forest lost to development since 1982, alongside the projected 26 million more lost by 2030, the grand total will be comparable in size to the state of Georgia.

But, my opportunity here at American Forests has afforded me the chance to see it in black and white (Or, in this case, according to the USFS’ map detailing private forests susceptible to increased housing density, an alarming amount of red). And, equally so, it breaks my heart to see what were once pockets of heat on the map shoot up the coast like a wildfire.

They say all good things come to an end. This account is seemingly a reluctant endorsement of that sentiment. But, more so, I think it inspires the necessity of just the opposite in me, the necessity of being thankful for what we have left and taking the individual action to conserve all of our natural “mansions.”

My story brought me here, to our nation’s capital, and the wonderfully exciting organization of American Forests. Whatever your story may be, something brought you here as well. Whether this is your first or 100th time reading this blog, you want to do something, too. While that something will be different for everyone, I firmly believe we’ve found the right place.

To find out how you can get involved too, visit our Action Center.


The Mental Benefits Provided by Urban Forests

by American Forests

By Conrad Kabbaz, Policy Intern

Kids climbing treeWe all feel better after a walk in the park, but can trees really be key to our mental well-being? According to recent studies featured in the New York Times and The New Yorker, they might, improving our physical health as well.

Promising Results

This possibility piqued the interest of Gregory Bratman, a Stanford graduate student.  A study he conducted showed improved happiness and attentiveness after participants walked through a green portion of the university campus. Subjects were compared to another group who walked the same distance near heavy traffic, devoid of vegetation. The “traffic” group reported lower happiness and attentiveness than their “green” peers. While these results were telling, they did not establish a tangible cause for this disparity.

Determined to pinpoint physical mechanism by which nature affects our mood, Bratman organized another study with a similar premise. Two groups of volunteers completed walks of similar distances, one in a park-like area of the Stanford campus and another near a major highway; effects to their moods were measured. This time, however, Bratman used brain scans to examine blood flow to a specific region of the brain associated with negative thoughts. Higher flow means more negative thinking, while lower indicates calmness, positivity, or “happiness.” Again, the “green” group subjects were happier than their “traffic” counterparts, but this time Bratman was able to correlate these differences with actual changes in blood flow in their brains. These results are particularly promising for urban residents, as the volunteers in this latest study were all “city dwellers.”

Another study, led by University of Chicago professor Marc Berman, looked at the health effects of urban forests on Toronto residents. Researchers found that neighborhoods with higher concentrations of trees not only “felt” better, but had lower rates of death from cardiovascular conditions. Perhaps most interesting is that, unlike Bratman’s Stanford study, most subjects were not exposed to an immersive, park-like environment.  In contrast, roadside trees constituted the vast majority of urban forestry.  Therefore positive mood and health benefits are not limited to those with access to forested parks, but available to a large portion of urban residents.

Not Just How… But Why?

Again, there is the question of why nature has these effects on people. Bratman illuminated the physical cause of the mood changes, namely blood flow in the brain, but not why this reaction is triggered. According to Berman, the answer may lie in the concept of “directed” and “involuntary” attention.  I touched on this in my previous blog post about urban forests and children with ADHD, and the explanation remains the same. Directed attention is used for periods of specific focus, such as during a test or while driving. Involuntary attention is used when there is no specific target of attention, such as just sitting on a park bench. Birds chirping, trees blowing in the wind and passersby all momentarily capture your attention before it shifts to something else.  Directed attention is a finite capacity, requiring periods of rest so it may be replenished.  Involuntary attention provides this rest period, allowing your mind to recharge.

Nature draws on involuntary attention so the connection between urban forests and better moods and attentiveness is clear. In fact, Berman conducted a study decades ago at the University of Michigan where participants took a walk through either a natural or urban environment. Afterwards, they completed a cognitive assessment and the “natural” group performed better than the “urban” one. This indicated a higher capacity for directed attention in the “natural” group resulting from their exposure to nature.  As Berman’s Toronto study demonstrated, these performance benefits are not contingent on full immersion in a park-like setting, but rather are triggered by any visual exposure to urban forests.

The Big Picture

Studies like these provide insight into more than self-reported happiness or reduced stress. Through objective measures like brain scans and cognitive assessments, researchers can determine the physical and mental reactions that trigger these effects. The potential implications are huge for areas like urban planning, education, and medical treatment. Studies have shown that patients with a nature view from their hospital windows often recover sooner, with several now incorporating “healing gardens” into their grounds. These natural settings in courtyards or on rooftops provide a serene escape from the stark visuals of a standard hospital setting. Similarly, the directed attention boost from viewing nature has been observed to be five times more for those with depression. Patterns like these are exciting areas of study because the need for new solutions to problems like mental illness and stress is rising.

Learn more about the benefits of urban forests!

Learn More about Urban Forests


Forest Digest – Week of August 17, 2015

by American Forests
Grand Circus Park

Grand Circus Park in Detroit, Mich. Credit: Mike Russell

Get some perspective on what’s happening with our forests with this week’s Forest Digest.


This Is It! The Quest for a New Champion Sugar Pine

by American Forests

Finding a champion tree is certainly an adventure! So, we wanted to share this vivid account of the quest to find a sugar pine that is pending nomination as a champion, as told by Carl Casey, nominator of the current sugar pine co-champion. 

Calaveras sugar pine

Carl Casey standing next to the base of the sugar pine found in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Photo by Rick Messier.

I was pushing my way slowly through a dense thicket of small trees – incense cedar, white fir and pacific dogwood — following the sound of voices we heard not far away in the forest. Accompanying me was my good friend and fellow big tree hunter, Rick Messier. We were off trail just upstream from the Agassiz Tree, the largest giant sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The Agassiz Tree is in the park’s South Grove, a gorgeous, old-growth mixed conifer forest of the Sierra Nevada that includes sugar pines. The ground was covered with broken branches and occasional logs 2 to 3 feet in diameter. It was a mild summer day in July, with blue skies and temperatures in the low 70s.

After a short distance someone heard us pushing through the forest and yelled out, “Are you looking for Bob Van Pelt?”

“Yes!” I replied.

“He’s on his way to meet you. He’ll be here in a few minutes.”

Someone came up through the trees and greeted us. It was James Freund, a bright young Ph.D. graduate, who was assisting Bob with measuring sequoias in the permanent plot that had been established in the South Grove five years earlier. He was wearing a hard hat and led us over to the group of researchers nearby that included Steve Sillett and his wife, Marie, well-known for their work with coast redwood trees. Some of the researchers had climbed a group of young sequoias with ropes and were suspended at different heights in the air, measuring trunk and branch sizes.

Bob soon arrived to greet us. Our purpose today was to obtain precise measurements of a large sugar pine I had found in the grove two months earlier. Since the demise of the Pickering Pine and the Whelan Pine, the two largest known sugar pines, the search was on to find another sugar pine close to their stature, if there were any left. The old-growth sugar pines of the Sierra Nevada have been hit hard in recent years by drought, bark beetles and blister rust, and many of the old giants are now gone. Michael Taylor and I had found sugar pines (separately) that are currently co-champions on the National Register of Champion Trees, but both are significantly smaller than the prior champs. Late last summer, Michael and I met and searched for large sugar pines in a nearby area of the Stanislaus National Forest…but came up short.

Bob and James followed me and Rick back to the Agassiz tree. At that point we were back on an established trail and made quick time hiking down to the sugar pine I was hoping would turn out to be in the class of the former giants. When we arrived at the tree, Bob glanced at it and became excited. High up on the trunk was the remnant of a former huge branch, large enough around to indicate that this was a very old tree.

“I bet this tree is at least 500 years old!” exclaimed Bob.

Like many old sugar pines, it had a large, cone-shaped skirt of debris at the base, made up of accumulated bark flakes, needles and small branches. Our first task was to determine where true ground level was on the high and low sides of the tree. Once that was accomplished, James starting wrapping the tape around the reddish-brown bark, while Rick and I assisted by helping to level the tape. After James circled the tree and came back to the starting point, we awaited the reading.

“919 centimeters!” James exclaimed. Bob was wearing a walkie talkie strapped to his chest to communicate with the other researchers. He pushed the button to talk and said, “Steve! It’s 919 centimeters at breast height!”

Not being a scientist, that meant nothing to me.

Calaveras sigar pine

Sugar pine in Calaveras Big Tree State Park nominated to the National Register of Champion Trees. Photo by Carl Casey.

“The circumference is 30 feet and 2 inches in English measures,” Bob said. “That’s 9.6 feet in diameter!” The slow tapering trunk of the tree showed some concave areas of bark that curved slightly as they went upward, another characteristic of large, old sugar pines.

Bob asked James to wrap the tape measure around the trunk as high up as he could reach, standing on top of the debris skirt on the high point of ground. Rick found a stick to push the tape up to keep it level going around the trunk. The tape kept falling and had to be adjusted numerous times. Finally, we got it right.

“What’s the reading?” Bob asked.

“762 centimeters,” James replied.

Bob clicked his walkie talkie and said, “Steve! It’s 762 centimeters (25 feet) at 10 feet off the ground!”  Bob surveyed the trunk with an expert eye honed by 30 years of measuring trees.

After a few moments Bob said with finality, “This is it! I believe this is the largest living pine tree on earth!!”

I was thrilled. My hope of finding one more sugar pine in league with the old giants was fulfilled.

Bob looked up and said, “The tree doesn’t look that tall to me, which could hurt as far as the tree’s overall points are concerned.”

But, I wasn’t too dismayed by this. Most of the really old sugar pines have had their tops broken off at some point and are generally in the 200- to 210-foot height range. Bob wound his way back through the forest, looking for a spot to measure the height with his laser rangefinder. James was standing by the trunk with a reflector, since the understory of pacific dogwood and small white firs obscured the view of the base of the tree.

After numerous attempts to catch the reflector, “Got it!” exclaimed Bob at last.

And then, silence. James tried to hold the reflector still. In a minute we hear Bob yell out, “I was wrong about the height. The tree is 241.3 feet tall!”  This meant the tree garnered more than 600 points in total, a feat accomplished by only three other sugar pines, all of which were now dead.

What caused Bob’s initial height estimate to be low is the fact that the entire forest of   trees in the South Grove is rather tall. The tallest known sequoia north of the Kings River is in this grove, measuring 283 feet high.

Bob came back to the base of the tree. We were all overjoyed that this magnificent old tree had survived centuries of storms, snow, wind, drought, bark beetles and blister rust to eventually, hopefully one day, claim the title of earth’s largest pine.

The sugar pine detailed in this story has been nominated to our National Register of Champion Trees, but has not yet been confirmed as an official champion. The register will be updated in 2016. To view our National Register of Champion Trees, click here.


GR25: Partying Like It’s 1999…And Saving Salmon

by Megan Higgs
Salmon

Trees shade the water and with salmon, the cooler the water, the better. Lower water temperatures mean more dissolved oxygen in the water, and dissolved oxygen is essential to salmon survival.

For today’s blog post, we’re gonna party like it’s 1999 with an unlikely hero (after all, you can still party like it’s 1999 if you don’t have legs!). Indeed, the star of today’s show is none other than the threatened salmon, and it has been quite a journey for the past several years!

As with the rest of the world, 1999 marked the end of a millennium, as well as the end of crimped hair, snap bracelets and other fabulous fashion statements. But, for American Forests’ Global ReLeaf, 1999 also signaled new beginnings.  In fact, this was one of the first years of collaboration with Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) — a longstanding partnership that has witnessed work spanning 10 separate years!

Sure, anniversaries are great and all. But, how does planting trees affect salmon, exactly?

Unbeknownst to many at first glance, trees, forests and riparian corridors provide a myriad of benefits for aquatic species, including salmon. They shade and cool streams, which is necessary for viable habitats for local populations. They also increase dissolved oxygen levels, mitigate soil erosion into waterways and prevent sediment buildup from occurring. Furthermore, riparian habitat is critical for filtering pollutants from the air and water, and leaves and other organic matter provided by trees yield sources of food and habitat for many species.

By partnering with NSEA, we have planted over 136,000 trees total in the Nooksack river basin as of our 10th anniversary to restore freshwater salmon habitat — particularly for species such as the Chinook and Coho salmon. Salmon are incredibly sensitive to changes in water quality and quantity, and the beginnings of our partnership came at a crucial time for these species: salmon populations had been declining for approximately 50 years, with their overall population health worsening in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  In fact, critical habitat had just been designated for the Coho salmon in 1999, and the Chinook salmon had just been listed as threatened nine years prior, in 1990. These fish are certainly worth preserving — known as the “king salmon,” the Chinook was well-known among the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Lewis himself once wrote that, when fresh, they tasted “better than any fish” he had ever eaten.

American Forests and NSEA are continuing to work closely together to preserve these and other salmon species, as well as dozens of other species that rely on salmon and salmon eggs.  We are planting 10,000 trees in riparian areas this year and have also assisted in educational outreach among youth and other groups — a feat that will ensure that there will not only be salmon for the years to come, but also (we hope!) our next generation of environmental stewards.