Habitat for Horses

by American Forests

By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern

Assateague pony.

Assateague pony. Credit: eric lynch via Flickr.

Last week, the 91st annual Chincoteague Pony Swim continued its tradition of rounding up the wild Assateague Island horses and corralling them across the southern channel to Chincoteague. Tens of thousands of people gathered to watch the eighth of a mile swim led by the “Saltwater Cowboy” volunteers who push the ponies into the water and then down a triumphant march on Main Street to be auctioned. While horse enthusiasts and Misty fans clamor for the chance to touch a mane, hear a whinny or buy a wild foal of their own, some pony enthusiasts are paying for foals to remain wild. These “buyback” ponies are often the highest grossing sales of the auction, with individuals donating their cost to keep the next generation of Assateague horses wild, out on the barrier island. But, will these generous purchases be enough to keep the herd wild?

Assateague Island is one of very few east coast barrier islands that remain protected from development, offering an incredible number of diverse maritime ecosystems within only 37 miles of coastline. On the interior of the island, loblolly pines tower over the wax myrtle that feed tree swallows and myrtle warblers with their bright berries. Oak, holly, cedar and red maple offer shade and shelter for the ponies within the forest, but also protect Sika deer, a diminutive elk species. The maritime forest and surrounding salt marshes shelter tens of thousands of migratory birds on their biannual journeys, while coastal estuaries provide ideal breeding grounds for aquatic species like the blue crab and flounder.

The uniqueness of this area’s habitats inspired the island’s protection as a National Seashore in 1965, but the National Park Service (NPS) may not be able to save this incredible island, nor the generous “buyback” donors succeed in keeping the Chincoteague ponies wild as the escalating effects of climate change threaten to quickly change the landscape. NPS estimates that within 25 years, the island will experience higher temperatures, more extreme weather and sea level rise of up to nine inches. These changes could rapidly increase movement and rollover to the west, and if they occur too quickly, break the island into pieces or drown it completely.

While NPS has made significant efforts to adapt, protect and restore the island, the fact remains that Assateague is changing, and historic habitats may be lost. If you haven’t yet had the chance to visit and walk through the forest on sandy soil to find a herd of ponies snacking on persimmons or to watch flocks of waterfowl take flight in formation, now is the time to see and appreciate the wildness of the rapidly changing island.

Swimming of the Ponies.

Swimming of the Ponies. Credit: Coast Guard News via Flickr.

Forest Digest — Week of July 25, 2016

by American Forests

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

Whitebark pine

Whitebark pine

  • Why Healthy Forests Mean Better Water SupplyNews Deeply
    As tree mortality rates in the Sierra Nevadas increases, the vital watersheds supplying water to California will be drastically affected, impacting the water supply to those in the state of California.
  • Restoring the Ghost Forests Flathead Beacon
    Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana has become the first whitebark pine friendly ski area in efforts to help sustain habitat for wildlife in the area which depend on the whitebark pine for survival.
    With the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations, to accommodate the vast demand for palm oil production, vulnerable forests and varying species on four different continents are at risk of major loss.
  • Forests and Crops Make Friendly Neighbors in Costa Rica — ipsnews.net
    With commercial agriculture resulting in 70 percent of the forest conversion in Latin America from 2000 to 2010, Costa Rica has emerged as a leader and role model with a plan to better allow sustainably forestry and agriculture to coexist.

An Adventurer’s Connection to Nature: Q&A with Eddie Bauer Athlete Chris Korbulic

by American Forests
River access in Patagonia, Chile.

River access in Patagonia, Chile. Photo courtesy of Chris Korbulic.

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 Chris Korbulic. Korbulic is an expedition white-water kayaker and professional photographer. He’s kayaked in some of the most remote corners of the world, including Patagonia, Africa and the Arctic. In the following interview, learn more about Korbulic’s connection to nature and the environment in which he thrives.

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

A: It’s natural for kids to unconsciously push their limits, but it’s especially possible and rewarding outside. Maybe the greatest thing about spending a lot of time growing up outside was that pushing my limits was just my natural operating mentality. It’s not something I became aware of until I really learned about risk and danger, but that just made me appreciate my ability to push it outside more and try to refine those childish risk-taking tendencies into more sustainable actions.

Paddling through a wild canyon in Papua New Guinea.

Paddling through a wild canyon in Papua New Guinea. Photo courtesy of Chris Korbulic.

Q: Was there a mentor or influence in your life that drew you to kayaking? If so, tell us about that person or people:

A: It has become pretty clear to me over the years how I’ve come to this lifestyle and career; my dad was a kayaker and my mom was a photojournalist. They loved being outside together, on the river and with other like-minded friends so their effect seems pretty direct on what I’ve come to appreciate and love to do. There are a lot of other inspiring people in the outdoor community who continue to draw me back to rivers and keep my perspective evolving.

Korbulic family

Korbulic on a road family road trip, growing up in a river and outdoor-based activity family. Photo courtesy of Chris Korbulic.

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

A: For me, they are inextricably linked. Experiencing the natural world on its terms means being faced with the direct consequences of its raw power, which necessitates a deep reverence for it. That grows with every experience outside, and every challenge or failure inspires me to try more.

Navigating glacial canyons in Alaska.

Navigating glacial canyons in Alaska. Photo courtesy of Chris Korbulic.

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

A: The accumulated experiences I’ve had in the wilderness have taught me a lot, including the importance of being able to access it. I hope that sharing these experiences will encourage others to get out and have their own experiences, which will hopefully produce in them a desire to protect those wild places, too!

A hidden oasis in northern California on Table Mountain.

A hidden oasis in northern California on Table Mountain. Photo courtesy of Chris Korbulic.

Q: What do you think is the most effective way to get people to care about preserving our natural world?

A: There is no substitute for first-hand experience. The more people who get outside into these natural wonders, the more people will want to preserve them.

Accessing the Napeequa river near Glacier Peak, Wash.

Accessing the Napeequa river near Glacier Peak, Wash. Photo courtesy of Chris Korbulic.

Offsetting Your Carbon Footprint from Electricity and Gas Consumption

by American Forests

The following guest blog post was written and provided by our partners SFE Energy.

Globe in ForestDo you know you can offset your carbon footprint from your daily electricity and gas consumption?

We often talk about our carbon footprints, and their collective impact on the environment, but we typically don’t have the means to reduce our personal contribution to carbon emissions in many significant ways. Did you know that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 0.005 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) are emitted per therm of natural gas burned? Electricity usage in your home emits 1.341 pounds (lbs) of CO2 per kWh, on average. Most of the electricity generated in the U.S. comes from fossil fuels, sources that are non-renewable and emit harmful by-products.

SFE Earth Save programs, Green Electricity and Eco Gas, provide homeowners with an easy way to do their part to help the environment, right here in the U.S.  SFE customers can take environmental action by choosing a carbon offset program, for their gas and/or electricity commodity use, and also feel good about the protected supply price they get too, for their energy needs. A Green Electricity customer who signs on to a three-year program with SFE, will get 100 percent of their carbon output offset, while receiving a protected electricity supply price for three years. An SFE customer who signs on to a three-year Eco Gas program, will get 1.5 tonnes* of their average household carbon output offset, while receiving a protected gas supply price for three years.  *Eco Gas footprint tonnage is dependent upon household.

Making a positive environmental change is a high priority for SFE. To date, SFE and its affiliates have offset more than 302,349 tonnes of CO2 from customers. When our energy customers opt for our Earth Save programs, SFE offsets the carbon emissions that their homes create, from natural gas and electricity use. We have developed many rewarding green relationships to make our Earth Save products available to consumers. We purchase carbon offsets on behalf of our SFE customers by investing in North American, verified projects like: Reforestation, Methane Gas Capture and Biomass Conversion.

SFE is also very proud to have a long-standing partnership with American Forests. For our 2015 Earth Save customers, American Forests will be planting 37,972 trees on their behalf.  Currently, carbon sequestration by plants offset 16.2 percent of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation and energy sectors.[1]

SFE Energy and its affiliates currently operate in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California. We are now planning to launch our services in Ohio this summer and are proud to relay our commitment to make America a healthier and greener place to live, by reducing our collective carbon footprint, one Earth Save customer at a time.

Want to start offsetting your carbon footprint from your daily electricity and gas consumption? Contact our friendly Customer Service staff, via email or phone: cs@sfeenergy.com | 1-877-316-6344

[1] https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html: Greenhouse gas emission by Economic Sector in 2014: Commercial & Residential 12%; Agricultural 9%; Electricity 30%; Industry: 21%; Transportation 26%; Total US Emissions in 2014 = 6,870 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents (MMtCO2E)
CO2 offset by land use and forestry = 11% of total = 6,870 x 0.11 = 755.7 MMtCO2E
Transportation, electricity, and residential sectors = 68% of total emissions = 6,870 x 0.68 = 4,671.6 MMtCO2E
Offset due to plants relative to these three sectors = 755.7 MMtCO2E / 4671.6 MMtCO2E x 100 = 16.2%


Forest Digest — Week of July 18, 2016

by American Forests

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

How Much are Forests Worth?

by American Forests

By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern

ForestAs forest lovers, we know that forests are worth more than the sum of their timber price or the income that the recreation industry receives. But, how do you convey the importance of protecting and restoring our forests to the millions of Americans who have no interest in walking among ancient trees, discovering rare wildlife deep within wilderness, or leaving valuable urban spaces green? Part of the answer is in quantifying the economic value of our forests, a large undertaking that will likely not be completed for many years. In the meantime, here are some ways to talk to those who don’t share the appreciation for all the wonderful ways that forests benefit our lives.

Take a small urban forest of 100 deciduous trees. Sure, there are aesthetic and recreational values associated with that area which, in most people’s minds, justifies spending about $142,000 on planting and maintaining them over the course of a normal 40-year lifetime. However, when broken down by all the benefits of that small forest, the return on investment is significant.

That small plot of trees will remove 53 tons of carbon dioxide each year and 430 pounds of air pollutants, decreasing medical bills relating to asthma and lung issues. They will collect about 139,000 gallons of rainwater every year, increasing water security and decreasing costs associated with run-off damage and storm water pollution problems. Shoppers in the city will spend more time in the area, pay more for parking and be willing to spend about 12 percent more for their products. The houses in the immediate area will save up to 56 percent on air conditioning costs every year, and marginally (1 percent) on heat in the winter, when the trees are strategically placed around their house. Even domestic violence rates may decrease. All of these benefits combined will add at least $232,000 net profit (as a most conservative estimate) on the investment of this small urban forest.[1]

Magnified out to the state level, in Tennessee alone, complete deforestation would result in an $80 billion loss of assets.[2] In New York, a $1 billion investment in improving land management practices and replanting trees was effective enough to avoid having to build a new water treatment facility that would have cost six to eight times that price. Taxpayers saw a 9 percent increase in bills, as opposed to the doubling that otherwise would have occurred.[3] In California, researchers found that urban trees removed the carbon dioxide equivalent of 120,000 cars’ emissions, and valued the trees at $2.49 billion in assets. For every $1 spent on a tree, $5.82 in benefits were returned.[4]

Just for a moment, imagine how much the value of vast, untouched forests will exponentially increase beyond these isolated examples. It’s been estimated that simply cutting deforestation rates in half over the next 15 years would save about $3.7 trillion in climate change related costs alone, because of the amount of carbon sequestered.[5] The actual value of the forests is much higher when all the other ecosystem and social benefits are taken into account.

Our forests will always have intrinsic and spiritual value that has not yet been able to be fully accounted for in monetary terms. Nevertheless, assigning a comprehensive economic value to our forests is a way of ensuring that they are universally recognized for the benefits that they bring to all of humanity — from carbon storage to water and air purification, wildlife habitat, mental health improvements and countless other services. With these efforts, even those who wouldn’t dream of traipsing through a dense forest, could help ensure that they are valued, protected and restored as the necessary assets they are.

[1] “Trees Pay Us Back” USDA Forest Service and NY State Department of Environmental Conservation: n.d.

[2] Berg, Nate. “The High Cost of Losing Urban Trees.” CityLab: April 9, 2012.

[3] “New York City” Watershed Case Studies, Information Center for the Environment. UC Davis: n.d.

[4] McPherson et al. “Structure, function and value of street trees in California, USA.” Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 17:104-115.

[5] “Ecosystem Restoration for Climate Change Mitigation” Dead Planet, Living Planet. GRIDA: n.d.

Top 5 Summer Swimming Holes in National Forests

by American Forests

By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern

This summer, forget the pool membership and take a dip in nature’s swimming holes preserved within our National Forests. These locations are shaded by massive trees, fed by mountain springs and cut out of the hillside by rushing waterfalls. Pack your swim suit and get ready for a day of summer fun by one of these incredible swimming spots.

Juniper Springs, Ocala National Forest, Florida

Ocala National Forest boasts the southernmost forest in the continental U.S., with four wilderness areas that are home to extraordinary amounts of wildlife. At Juniper Springs, massive springs gush out of the earth, feeding crystal clear streams that catch in fresh pools. Navigating the area offers countless streams to wade in and pools to dive in, with crisp water perfect for snorkeling. Big, desert-like shrub, palms and oaks shade the pools. The area is uniquely open year-round for swimming, since the water temperature barely changes through the seasons.

Juniper Springs

Credit: Sara via Flickr.

Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Pisgah National Forest are the dramatic Looking Glass Falls that plunge 60 feet into a deep swimming hole. With steps leading down to the water and large flat rocks for picnicking, it’s easy to spend all day relaxing by the water, being showered by the falls or exploring the nearby trails through the forest.

Looking Glass Falls

Credit: Stevbach1 via Flickr.

Aztec Falls, San Bernardino National Forest, California

Off the Pacific Crest Trial in San Bernardino National Forest lies the adrenaline junkie’s ultimate swimming hole. Cliffs overlooking the water range from 5-60 feet offering plenty of opportunities to test your daring spirit and jump into the pool below. Always be sure to test the water for depth and debris before jumping. For the less adventurous, plenty of flat rocks and sand bars line the pool, offering the perfect place to sunbathe, picnic and relax.

Aztec Falls

Credit: Russell Brennan via Flickr.

Opal Pool, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Opal Pool truly lives up to its name. Crystal water rushes down the stream to collect in a calm, gem-colored wading pool. Located down an old scenic road, the trail to the pool winds through breathtaking old-growth forest, crossing the mountain stream via a footbridge to look down on the crystal-clear pool, reflecting the green of the trees, blue of the sky and shine of the sunlight. Wade the clear waters and venture downstream to see the waterfalls tumbling out of it.

Opal Pool

Credit: Szapucki via Flickr.

Devil’s Punchbowl, White River National Forest, Colorado

The Devil’s Punchbowl is one of Colorado’s best kept secrets, despite having a more well-known namesake. Framed by vertical granite cliffs, the swimming hole is fed by an ice-cold mountain river that plunges into the pool on one side and cascades out on the other. The crisp water is a refreshing wakeup after the steep hike up from the road. Be sure to check out the layout of submerged rocks before attempting any jumps from the edges!

The Devil's Punchbowl

Credit: Mark Donoher via Flickr.

Forest Digest — Week of July 11, 2016

by American Forests

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


Tips for Staying Connected to Nature in a Busy World

by American Forests

Credit: Martin Borgman via Flickr.

By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern

“Deviation from nature is deviation from happiness.”—Samuel Johnson

As we rush through our ever increasingly busy lives, we wait for the rare weekend that we can spend time reconnecting with nature and ourselves. For some, these opportunities come only once or twice a year, but time spent in nature is so essential to human well-being — it restores us psychologically, emotionally and even physically. For those of us who can’t regularly spend days or weekends reconnecting with the wild, we can still incorporate aspects and reminders of natural life within our daily routines. Use these tips to stay connected with nature right in the middle of your everyday, busy life.

Visualize Every Morning

It’s no secret that many of the world’s most effective leaders, businessmen and innovative thinkers credit their success in part to meditation. The physical benefits have been well-documented — it helps lower high blood pressure, improves mood and clarity and strengthens immune systems. But, how can meditation help you connect to nature? Simple visualization exercises of nature, done for only a few minutes every morning, can center, focus and ready you for the day around the calming visualization of experiencing nature.

Workout Outside

Even in today’s busy world, many people still find time to fit in exercise, albeit usually in a crowded, antiseptic-smelling gym under fluorescent lighting while music blares through our headphones. Whatever your standard preferred workout is, consider switching it up by running on a forested trail, practicing yoga in a quiet park or doing an at-home routine in the light of your backyard sun. While you’re outside, allow a few minutes to fully relax and be present — soak in the sun, wiggle your toes in the dirt or stare at the clouds or stars. Allow your mind to focus, even for just a few minutes, on only the elements of nature surrounding you.

Be Present and Observe

As we go about our daily lives, we experience a lot more time outdoors than we realize or take advantage of. Whenever you’re out and about, try to stay focused on the present. Let go of the thoughts about what you have to do once you arrive at your destination, ignore the urge to check your phone and simply notice the nature surrounding you. Admire the flowers lining the sidewalk, take in the trees and discover that bird’s nest near your office. Focusing on the little elements of nature that you experience throughout the day, instead of listening to music or worrying about what’s coming up next, will clear your mind, calm and refresh you throughout the day, without taking up any additional time.

Nurture a Plant

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! Many people don’t have the green thumb, time or space it takes to grow an entire garden, but nurturing a small plant can be very easy, inexpensive and a great way to connect with nature. Whether you choose to grow fresh herbs for your kitchen, shape a small bonsai tree or nurture an orchid on your desk at work, caring for a plant will be a small daily reminder of nature’s life.

5 Must-See Locations in National Forests

by American Forests

By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern

National Forests are often synonymous with a long walk in the woods under canopied skies, but here’s a collection of five must see locations in our forests that offer much more than their thick trees or dense foliage alone. From a cliff-top lookout to a giant glacier waterfall and herds of wild bighorn sheep, these exciting destinations are sure to keep you entertained.

1. Round Island Lighthouse, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are the treacherous Straights of Mackinac, full of rocky shoals and shallows that tore apart many ships in centuries past. In 1895, Round Island Lighthouse was built to help warn of these dangerous areas. Long since decommissioned, the lighthouse has been added to Hiawatha National Forest and restored into a breathtaking historical landmark on the tip of a protected wilderness island.

Round Island Lighthouse

Credit: Mark via Flickr.

2. Nugget Falls, Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Nugget Falls rushes out of the melting Mendenhall glacier and into the mountain-framed lake below. This area of Tongass National Forest is home to dense forest which has aged more than 200 years, but the forest also welcomes new life. The melting and moving glacier has revealed new land that has only been without ice in the last 50 years. The result is beautiful young-growth — patches of lush moss and colorful lichens, tiny fungi and sapling spruce.

Nugget Falls

Credit: Trent Roche via Flickr.

3. Sheep Mountain, Angeles National Forest, California

When people think of Southern California, lush forests and abounding wildlife don’t typically come to mind. But, with Sheep Mountain Wilderness in Angeles National Forest, breathtaking vistas and unique animals are the norm. Many hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail cite this section as their favorite, and it’s easy to see why. Home to peaks of more than 10,000 feet in elevation, the wilderness is a wildlife corridor home to three large groups of bighorn sheep that roam the highlands.

Sheep Mountain Wilderness

Credit: Rennett Stowe via Flickr.

4. High Rock Lookout, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington

You can view both Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens from the shelter of this lookout in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Teetering on the brink of sheer cliffs that drop 600 feet vertically and then careen further to the valley below, High Rock Lookout is an exhilarating hiker’s resting place. Built in 1930, pack mules were needed to carry the necessary timber up the precarious ridgeline. While no longer in official use, the lookout is still the perfect destination for sheltered snacking while looking thousands of miles in all directions, over jagged mountain peaks and gem blue lakes.

High Rock Lookout

Credit: Nick Cramer via Flickr.

5. Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, Arizona

Countless photographers have been unjustly accused of photoshopping the rich colors and dramatic contrasts of the Red Rocks Ranger District in Coconino National Forest. Reminiscent of old western movies, this wilderness area is a drastic change from its historic status as wetlands. Now, sharply carved cliffs jut out of Ponderosa pines and rugged desert terrain, their unique geological formations laced in rainbows of red, orange and yellow.

Coconino National Forest

Credit: U.S. Forest Service via Flickr.