Forest Digest — Week of June 27, 2016

by American Forests

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

Zhangjiajie National Forest.

Zhangjiajie National Forest. Credit: chensiyuan/Wikimedia Commons.

Meet Our New Manager of Forest Conservation

by American Forests

Justin HynickaJustin Hynicka recently came to American Forests as our new manager of forest conservation. We’re excited for the experience, knowledge and new ideas he is bringing to the position and the organization — and we think you should be excited, too! From why he’s looking forward to helping further the American Forests’ mission to his favorite story from the field, read more about Justin.

  • Why did you choose to go into conservation?
    I chose a career in forest conservation because of my love for the outdoors. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the mountains throughout the continental United States, and as a recreational user of these areas, I felt compelled to help protect and restore them. I also studied ecosystem science as an undergraduate and graduate student. Forests are such interesting and beautiful places, and the more I learn about them the more excited I am to be working on their behalf.
  • What aspects of American Forests’ work are you most excited to be a part of?
    I’m most excited to build partnerships with regional and local experts and forest advocates, to continue learning about the wide variety of forest ecosystem types around the world and how they function and, ultimately, contribute to their restoration, management and protection.
  • What do you think are the most significant challenges facing forests today?
    Although deforestation is an ever present threat, maintaining forest health is a significant challenge due to the introduction of exotic pests, disease and climate change, among other factors. Fortunately, the decisions and investments we make in forest restoration and management today will have lasting benefits for future generations of people and wildlife.
  • Do you have a favorite story from your years in the field?
    So far, my favorite trip in the field was a seven-day backpacking trip with a college friend in the Wind River Range, Wyo. It is quite the slog to the high-elevation lakes, but once you get there the scenery is spectacular. The lakes are cold, crystal clear and full of brook trout that were originally dropped into the lakes by plane during the 1920s and ‘30s to improve recreational fishing. Moose are abundant, and we saw several either crossing streams or gorging on herbaceous plants in wetlands. The highlight was camping near the Cirque of the Towers, which is a collection of sheer granite mountain peaks. The low point of the trip was a dead car battery (overhead light left on by yours truly) upon our return.
  • What is your favorite tree and why?
    I have a few, but if I can only choose one, it has to be the American larch / tamarack (Larix laricina). It is unique because it is a deciduous conifer, which means that it has cones and needle-like leaves, like Christmas trees, but it has to regrow its leaves every year. When the leaves die in the fall, they turn bright yellow, and the new leaves in the spring are neon green. Also, who doesn’t love the circular pattern that the leaves grow in? The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness in eastern Oregon is a great place to see the American larch. A very close second is the shagbark hickory (Carya ovata).

A Guide to Forest-Friendly Summer Vacationing

by American Forests

By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern

skywalkSummer is here — the time to dive in sun-warmed water, to share strawberries piled high on shortcake and cream and to walk in the shade of a breathtaking forest. As you prepare for your summer getaway, keep in mind these tips on vacationing in a forest friendly way.

Picking Your Destination

Whether you prefer to relax on an isolated beach, explore the culture and nightlife of a city or cool off by a mountain lake, a little digging can reveal more sustainable alternatives to the typical destination that will also allow you to explore some of the most beautiful forests in the world.

  • Bald Head Island, North Carolina
    For example, if you prefer a beach getaway, consider Bald Head Island, the southernmost of North Carolina’s cape islands. Accessed by ferry, the island requires biking, walking, or golf-carting to traverse. This not only saves carbon emissions while getting around, but also aids in relaxation and lets you explore the 10,000 acres of nature preserves on the island. Beaches stretch for 14 miles, a tidal creek winds through the salt marsh and a lush maritime forest stretches across the northeastern section of the island. Miles of trails serpentine among dogwoods, cedars, oaks and palms. American and Yaupon holly, wild olive and catbrier entangle beneath the canopy. Home to painted buntings, cardinals, and Carolina wrens, the forest also shelters migratory birds in the fall, including blue jays, catbirds, towhees, and twenty-two species of warblers. Sea turtles, foxes, otters and even alligators abound on the island.
Bald Head Island.

Bald Head Island. Credit: Richard Ricciardi via Flickr.

  • Lapa Rios, Costa Rica
    If a tropical and exotic location is more your style, consider Lapa Rios in Costa Rica. While tourism in the rainforest usually means supporting unsustainable practices that harm the forest, the Lapa Rios ecolodge is a private 1,000-acre nature preserve that protects virgin rainforest from deforestation and serves as a model of sustainable ecotourism. The preserve is home to the nearly extinct Sangrillo Colorado tree, as well as jaguars, monkeys, poison dart frogs and toucans. Accommodations include screened, open air bungalows that immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of the breathtaking rainforest.
Banff National Park.

Banff National Park. Credit: Shane Lin via Flickr.

  • Kicking Horse River Lodge, Canada
    If a cool mountainous adventure is your preferred summer getaway, consider Kicking Horse River Lodge in Golden, British Columbia, Canada. Nestled between the Canadian Rockies and Purcell Mountains, the lodge uses geothermal and hydroelectric energy to shrink its footprint to a minimum. With accommodations ranging from dorm-style bunks to comfortable private rooms, the lodge can be a bargain hunter’s inexpensive launching pad for exploring the nearby national parks. Banff, the nearest national park, boasts turquoise lakes, jagged peaks and subalpine forest which are prime habitat for elk, moose, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, grizzly and black bear and the threatened caribou.
Endangered Owl Butterly in Lapa Rios

Endangered Owl Butterly in Lapa Rios. Credit: Grant Folin via Flickr.

Whatever your ideal summer plans include, look for cities that are known for their urban forests, golf courses that reuse their water, spas that favor natural products, hotels that have shrunk their footprint and, of course, nearby forests to explore.

Traveling to Your Destination

There’s an obvious rule of thumb when it comes to starting your vacation in a carbon friendly way — don’t fly if you can drive. But, if getting to your destination requires air travel, you can book flights that use larger and newer planes and don’t have layovers. One quick way to start an eco-friendly flying search is by using a search engine that includes the carbon footprint in the results shown, such as Gooby, where rankings are given for “quickest,” “cheapest,” “most popular” and most importantly, “greenest.”

While on Vacation

Once you’ve booked an eco-friendly destination and figured out how to get there with the smallest carbon footprint, remember to take a few steps to ensure that you continue to have a minimal impact on the environment.

Instead of taking a cab to recreation spots, explore the area on foot, bike or by public transportation. You will experience much more of the area and may even discover some hidden gems that are unlisted on Google results and unknown to the concierge.

Offer to reuse your towels and linens during your stay, or opt in to an environmental plan that your hotel offers. You can also turn off the thermostat when you’re not in your room, shower instead of bathing and explore local dining options that offer farm to table cuisine.

Coming Home

An important part of an eco-friendly vacation that often goes unmentioned is in what you bring home. Souvenirs are reminders of the extraordinary memories that were made and tokens of the culture or nature experienced. But often, tourist souvenirs don’t benefit the local community that was visited. Avoid purchasing products by big-name brands that can be found in shopping malls and airport terminals that won’t benefit the local community. Instead, search out locally and responsibly made products sold by small businesses, just be careful to avoid products made out of rare wood or animal parts that may have been harvested unsustainably or are a result of poaching.

There are endless enticing forests to explore this summer — find a destination that will allow you to experience the trees and wildlife of a beautiful tranquil forest in a more sustainable way.

Forest Digest — Week of June 20, 2016

by American Forests
Intensifying wildfires threaten forests.

Climate change is increasing the intensity and duration of wildfires.

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

  • Wildfire, Forests, and Climate Change [Infographic]
    Forest mismanagement and escalating climate change are lengthening and intensifying wildfires, which threaten the health of the world’s forests. Plus, an infographic on the world’s deadliest wildfires.


Why I’m Here: Trading Prickly Pear for Red Pine

by American Forests

By Megan Feeney, Policy Intern

MeganGrowing up in Ahwatukee, Ariz., opportunities to experience elements of forestry or urban greenspace were limited to the rushed car trips up the West Coast for swim meets and crashing my bike into a patch of prickly pear cacti at age seven. It wasn’t until entering my first year of college in Western Pennsylvania that I was finally introduced to the intricate nature of forestry and the abundance of wildlife that accompanies it. The various hiking trails surrounding Allegheny College have proven to be a valued asset within the local community, for both the environmental expert and a novice such as myself. The reservation of these spaces for environmental research, restoration efforts and public recreation truly promote the value of these woodland regions.

My appreciation for forestry was again solidified through a recent academic experience in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, where I resided in the Amazon Basin to study the biodiversity associated with the region’s rainforest. While the weather was extremely humid and the mosquito nets appeared to be defective, I have never felt a stronger connection to the natural environment. The opportunity to experience the changing environmental landscape, along with observing the exceptional beauty of creatures, such as the blue-headed parrot and the black caiman, was well worth any temporary discomfort. Our guides also expressed a respect for the forests, treating specific trees as sacred components of local cosmology. The Peruvian appreciation for the Pachamama, Mother Earth, also added an interesting sense of spirituality and cultural understanding to the greater question of environmental conservation.

Throughout my studies within the field of Political Science, I have noticed that the environment tends to take a back seat within the public discourse surrounding both federal and state policy. Aspects of development and the possibility for economic opportunity tend to dominate the conversation, while environmental consideration is pushed aside. As a student of policy, this seemingly blasé attitude towards elements of climate change, carbon emissions and the destructions of forests is deeply troubling. Although wildlands play a vital role in the daily life of citizens, there appears to be a societal disconnect between the incentives of private enterprise and the need for preservation.

Luckily for the nation’s forests, as well as our global community, American Forests is providing a much needed voice to the political conversation. The founding of this organization in 1875 was well ahead of its time, attempting to address the environmental concerns of the steadily expanding nation. Today, American Forests strives to promote action, as well as education, in support of environmental conservation through policy discussions, advocacy and community programs.

I am happy to say that I have found my summer home with American Forests. Assisting with substantive work that promotes a worthy goal or cause is the dream of any college intern. While I may not have reached this point through the conventional path of growing up with a forest in my backyard, my experiences of the past few years will serve as a strong base to motivate my learning process. It is an honor to work for such an established environmental organization that is striving to make a true impact within public policy and local communities.

An Adventurer’s Connection to Nature: Q&A with Eddie Bauer Athlete KC Deane

by American Forests

Credit: Chris Figenshau courtesy of Eddie Bauer.

We all have a different connection to nature. For those who have a love of outdoor adventure and spend much of their time in nature, that connection is imperative to who they are. This is the case for KC Deane. Deane is an accomplished skier and mountain biker who also happens to be great with a camera. He’s competed in numerous renowned events and had his photography published frequently. In the following interview, learn more about Deane’s connection to nature and the environment in which he thrives.

Q: Do you think it was nature or nurture that created in you the seeds of the passion you have for outdoor adventure?

A: For me, I think it was both. Having parents that get you in the outdoors is a key element. Then, once you get out in nature, it keeps you coming back. The older I got the more I wanted to be outside and looking for new places.

Q: How young were you when you first knew you wanted to be pushing your limits outside?

A: I was probably about 5 or 6 years old. I had been skiing for a few years at age 6 and looked up to my brother and my dad. Also, the influence of watching ski movies made me want to be a skier.

Deane skying off mountain.

Credit: Grant Gunderson courtesy of Eddie Bauer.

Q: Was there a mentor or influence in your life that drew you to these sports?

A: My dad, 100 percent. He is the reason I am doing so many different sports. He was taking me skiing and climbing as a little kid and towing me up hills on my bike before I had enough strength to keep up with everyone. He was constantly taking me into the mountains, and, by an early age, I was always looking forward to doing something new.

Deane preparing to board helicopter.

Credit: Chris Figenshau courtesy of Eddie Bauer.

Q: What is the connection for you, if any, between your adventure life and your view of the natural world?

A: Every day that I get out to do a sport, I’m in nature. So, being in nature on a daily basis and seeing the effects humans have locally, as well as globally, through global warming, it is hard not to become protective over the places we go and what we have.

Deane mountain biking

Credit: Grant Gunderson courtesy of Eddie Bauer.

Q: As a photographer, filmmaker and blogger/adventurer, what impact do you hope your work will have on others?

A: One of the best things for me is to inspire others to go do things and see more. Personally, one of the best compliments as an athlete/photographer is when I get a comment or meet someone in person that tells me, “hey, I just upped and left what I was doing because I wanted to go see and experience the places that I’ve seen through your images.” So, to continue that is one way I hope to impact people, and the other is to see and admire a place while leaving it as it is. Sometimes, the more people visit a place, for instance, you can see the effects they have on it. I like to think that when a person goes to see a place I took an image of they see it without any trace of myself or anyone else that has been there before.


Credit: Chris Figenshau courtesy of Eddie Bauer.

Forest Digest – Week of June 13, 2016

by American Forests

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

City trees

Credit: Chuck Fazio.

  • Even Indoor Kids Should Worry About California’s 30 Million Dead Trees —
    Last year, the state of California lost nearly 30 million trees, and this changing landscape will impact residents in a variety of ways, including increased wildfires, potential mudslides, poor water quality and more.
  • U.S., Norway say forests vital to global climate goalsReuters
    In a joint statement made on Wednesday by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Norwegian government, both countries have signed a deal focusing on protecting forests, and engaging the private sector in doing so, in order to address climate goals.
  • Canadian forests a refuge as warming creeps northScienceDaily
    A recent Harvard study, analyzing more than 26,000 trees across an area of Canada, helps to reveal how increased rainfall may help certain trees in the area survive the threats of climate change.
  • Trees Lining California Streets Are Worth An Extra $1 Billion A YearHuffington Post
    A new study estimates each street tree within California to be worth $111, based on the benefits they provide, which can assist the state’s urban foresters in advocating for the planting of more trees and strategic selection of trees that provide maximum economic and environmental impact.

Discover 5 of America’s Old-Growth Forests

by American Forests

By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern

There are still extraordinary places left on earth where old-growth trees have been climbing hundreds of feet to the sky for centuries, safely distanced from the watchful eye of development and industry. Here, rare wildlife flourishes, like it did in the breathtaking and doubt-inspiring accounts of Lewis and Clark’s first expeditions, off the beaten path of destinations and away from typical tourists.

However, stands of ancient trees have also stood among us, sometimes largely unnoticed, as recreationalists trek by with eyes focused on the trail, river or rock ledge.

Whether you’d rather explore deep within the wilderness where few venture, or enjoy a simple walk in the outdoors, there are beautiful, old-growth forests waiting to be visited. Put one of these areas on your list of places to explore, and who knows, maybe the next Champion Big Tree is waiting to be discovered.

1. Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Tongass National Forest is home to some of the oldest trees on earth — many of them dating back more than 800 years. Spruce, cedar and western hemlock trees stretch more than 200 feet into the sky and reach nearly 12 feet in diameter at chest level. These impressive trees mark the section of southeast Alaska that makes up 30 percent of the temperate rainforests on earth and one of the last great marvels of biodiversity and natural abundance. Here, some of the rarest wildlife on earth abounds — bald eagles, grizzly bears, Alexander Archipelago wolves, the Goshawk and the Marbled Murrelet. Ancient glaciers feed the Icy Straight, a winding river that delivers three times as much essential organic carbon to the ocean than the Amazon River does, supporting lush marine life from krill to sea lions, whales and a range of salmon species. Exploring the Tongass can be a short hike or a deep wilderness trek, but the time to visit is now, as the forest’s timber harvesting plan threatens the remaining old-growth trees and the health of the wildlife habitat.

Tongass National Forest

Credit: Don MacDougall/USFS via Flickr.

2. Chattahoochee National Forest, South Carolina and Georgia

Chattahoochee National Forest is home to massive hemlocks, pines and hardwoods, with stately trees stretching more than 160 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. Scattered across the slopes of Medlin Mountain in South Carolina, the massive trunks contrast with the heavily logged bank of the East Fork of the Chattooga River. Towering canopies shelter dense, luscious rhododendron bushes, wildflowers and endangered plants such as the rattlesnake plantain and mountain camellia.

The area used to be the end of what was a large section of old-growth forest across the entire watershed, where the average tree height was a record 160 feet. Due to the knotty nature of the wood, timber harvesters avoided the area and the trees were left to flourish for centuries, some up to 600 years. It wasn’t until the woolly adelgid, an invasive insect, began covering the area and the hemlocks were put into shock and, ultimately, began dying off. Some of the old stands remain, however, covering the mountainsides. Spring is the time to explore the trails, when the solitary viereo, black-throated green warbler and Blackburnian warbler nest in the hemlock branches and rhododendron bushes bloom underneath the cover.

Chattahoochee National Forest

Credit: Alan Sandercock via Flickr.

3. Heart’s Content Recreation Area, Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania

Nestled within a small 120-acre area of the Allegheny National Forest, some of the largest old-growth trees in North America grow alongside an easily accessible, one mile trail. The Heart’s Content Recreation Area is home to a white pine that is more than 900 cubic feet, as well as a 300-year-old hemlock and beech. This preserve is a great way to view an old, beautiful forest and its wildlife without traipsing deep within a wild area.

Heart's Content Recreation Area

Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli via Flickr.

4. Adirondack State Park, New York

The Adirondack wilderness in New York is home to about 300,000 acres of ancient trees scattered about the vast wilderness. Some of the largest hardwoods in the world can be found dotting remote ridgelines and lining secluded rivers deep within the park, where logging wasn’t able to disrupt centuries of steady growth. However, some select stands have remained in accessible areas. A few minutes’ walk on the Ampersand Mountain trailhead leads to statuesque hemlocks, magnificent sugar maples and gangly yellow birch that have been growing for nearly 400 years.

Adirondack State Park

Credit: David Johnson via Flickr.

5. Jedediah Redwoods State Park, California

A list of old-growth forests wouldn’t be complete without mentioning California’s awe-inspiring redwoods, but the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in the northernmost section is especially impressive. A trip begins with one of the most beautiful drives in the state — winding through towering redwoods over rough gravel for 10 miles and ending deep within the ancient forest. Miles of remote trails explore stunning waterfalls, rare wildlife and, of course, gigantic trees. Here, two massive redwoods entwine each other into one massive trunk that stretches 40 feet across at the bottom. The park is also the launching pad for discovery of the fabled Grove of Titans, a group of famously massive trees whose location isn’t made publicly available in order to protect them from damage.

Jedediah Smith State Park

Credit: Max Forster.

Across the country, there are still groves of old-growth forests deep within a wilderness valley, protected in a recreational area or even in someone’s backyard. Whether you want to simply walk and appreciate an ancient forest, or go off on an expedition to find a new champion tree, there is an area of old forest waiting, with trees continuing their centuries long climb to the sky.

Why I’m Here: Combining Passions for Forests and Communications

by American Forests

By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern

Lindsay SeventkoAs I began searching for an internship nearly six months ago, I struggled to find an opportunity that seemed well-rounded in potential experiences. I kept comparing what one particular friend told me about his internship, David May, who was American Forests’ Communications Intern in summer 2015, with what I had heard from other people.

His experience of actually contributing real work by creating content for the website and magazine, and aiding the communications department in all areas of the organization, contrasted strongly with other stories of months of filing paperwork and making coffee. I wanted a similar opportunity to gain real experience and develop new skills, especially in a way that combined communications and marketing with forest conservation.

Growing up in a congested New York suburb, I always cherished family getaways to the Adirondacks, one of the most well protected state parks in the country. There, I learned to love the richness of forests and always wanted a “professional wilderness explorer” job.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve remained passionate about forest conservation and environmental issues, but my interests have also evolved to include marketing and communications. Thus, I’m excited for this internship to be a blending of the two — an experience in communicating the science of forests and trees in a creative, and simple, way and an opportunity to aid the conservation, education and policy efforts of American Forests.

Forest Digest – Week of June 6, 2016

by American Forests

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