It’s Not Easy Being Green

by American Forests

By Marcelene Sutter

Recycling was much more intuitive when common beverages, like milk, were served in glass bottles.

Recycling was much more intuitive when common beverages, like milk, were served in glass bottles. Credit: Sheran/Flickr

“Reduce, reuse, recycle.” It’s a familiar mantra, splashed across posters in elementary schools across the country. Recycling itself is not a new concept — archaeological digs have revealed that the practice may date back further than the Neanderthals. The reasons for recycling bottles are abundant and well-known: Recycling plastic bottles reduces carbon dioxide emissions from the bottle-making process and conserves space in landfills.

So why are Americans slacking off in terms of recycling? In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Bill Chameides of Duke University’s School of the Environment, writes that there are two main causes that could explain the lack of recycling: increases in single-use bottles and increases in consumption. Since the 1950s, beverages are increasingly sold in aluminum or plastic containers, instead of in glass bottles. When glass bottles were used for milk, recycling was vital to the transaction; if people did not put their bottles out for the milkman, they did not receive the product. These new materials make recycling less intuitive and this, coupled with skyrocketing bottled beverage consumption rates, has caused ad decline in recycling to become an issue.

Bottle bills provide monetary incentives for people to recycle their bottles.

Bottle bills provide monetary incentives for people to recycle their bottles. Credit: Vincent Brown

The solution to this problem seems to be offering incentives; the recent “Bottled Up” report released by the Container Recycling Institute reveals that the 11 states that offer bottle bill incentives, where people can receive cash back for recycling their bottles, account for nearly half of all recycling across the United States. Enacting this type of bill is often an uphill battle for states, which may face corporate opposition from bottling companies and beverage distributors.

If you feel strongly about the rising levels of landfills and the lack of recycling in the United States, there are several ways that you can help the environment, beyond simply recycling all of your bottles. Using reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic bottles is a great start and, though it requires a bit more work, only purchasing beverages from pro-recycling bottling companies can send a strong message as well.

This is my last blog post as an American Forests intern, and I want to thank the Loose Leaf team for allowing me to write for the blog this semester. I have truly enjoyed exploring environmental current events, and have appreciated all of the thoughtful comments left by readers. Thank you for a great semester!

The Majestic Sugar Maple

by American Forests

By Lisa Swann

Sugar maple near the banks of the Mackinaw River - Money Creek Township; McLean County, Illinois

Sugar maple near the banks of the Mackinaw River – Money Creek Township; McLean County, Illinois. Credit: tlindenbaum/Flickr

The majestic sugar maple’s fall color finery is now at an end — but forest owners are looking forward to the next season: maple sugaring. The syrup you are devouring on your pancakes this holiday season is likely from the last sap run that happened in the spring.

The sugar maple is an amazing tree, from ample summer shade to brilliant fall colors to its ability to produce maple sugar sap, which is boiled down into syrup. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is common throughout New England, the Lake States, Mid-Atlantic states, and several Canadian provinces (note the sugar maple leaf on the Canadian flag).

Sugar maples can grow to heights in excess of 100 feet. The national champion sugar maple in New London, Conn., is 124 feet tall, with a diameter of 219 inches and a crown spread of 86 feet.  Most trees range in height from 70 to 90 feet and have diameters from two to three feet, and crowns from 60-80 feet. Most sugar maples regenerate naturally through seeds falling to the ground and wide sprouting. They are very prolific seed producers.

A sugar maple stand managed for the production of maple sugar is often referred to as a sugar bush. One of the most important characteristics for a maple sugar tree is a large crown open to sunlight and large stems, which mean high sap rates. In the early 1600s, European explorers witnessed American Indians drawing maple sap, and today maple sugaring is an important cash crop in the New England states.

The tree is also important as a hardwood timber species and was used by settlers to create common kitchen tools such as cheese pressers, rolling pins and apple grinders. Today, it is also popular for flooring, furniture, cabinets and woodenware, as well as basketball courts and baseball bats.

In late summer and fall, sugar maples stop growing and begin storing starches in the sapwood. These starches remain in “storage” until the temperature reaches 40 degrees.  When the temperatures warm in the spring, cells holding the starches change them into sugars and the sugar passes into sap. The warmer temperatures create pressure inside the tree and sap begins to flow. It takes 40 liters of maple sap — and hours of boiling down — to make one liter of maple syrup.

So when you enjoy maple syrup this winter, think about the sugar maple tree and the sweet season that is coming.

Learn more about threats facing the sugar maple and what you can do to help, so future generations can continue to enjoy the delicious taste of maple syrup.

Not Just Fungi and Games

by American Forests

By Marcelene Sutter

A forager finds a morel.

A forager finds a morel. Credit: Jasper Nance/Flickr

Foraging for food has become a widespread facet of foodie culture over the past few years, with classes and online guides giving rise to unprecedented numbers of forest visitors in search of fresh mushrooms. Nationwide, chefs and foodies alike seek the unique taste of the wild mushroom, inspiring them to take a trip to their local forests and raising concerns among park rangers.

Mushroom foraging is becoming increasingly trendy in California, where it is illegal in most state and national parks, Salt Point State Park being a notable exception. Although this type of collecting is legal in the park, the use of rakes and shovels to hunt for fungi is not, and visitors who illegally use these tools disturb the forest floor. Visitors have been making their presence known in other ways too; in an interview with NPR, Ranger Todd Farcau describes the trash left behind by fungi-seeking tourists as looking “like a rock festival has passed through.”  Although strict regulations are in place in the park, they are not always followed by visitors, who flock to the forest in foraging tour groups that can cost up to $90 per person.


Porcini. Credit: Mike Kempenich

While eating fresh foods is a healthful and delicious initiative, Salt Point is taking a hit because it is one of the few parks that allows this activity. Visitors converge on the forest, seeking the delicious fungi and often disobey the five pound per day limit, exacerbating the problem. Regular Salt Point mushroom hunting tour leader Patrick Hamilton feels that the solution to the problem is not to prohibit mushroom gathering all together, but rather to open more areas where foraging is allowed, to ease some of the burden on Salt Point State Park. In his words, “If they would just open up all the parks to hunting, you wouldn’t even notice us.”

An Honorable Man

by Loose Leaf Contributor

Continuing our series highlighting the International Society of Arboriculture’s True Professionals of 2013, Meet Richard Herfurth of Lyndeborough, N.H. — a man whose integrity and commitment to safety has inspired both colleagues and students. Herfurth is a Board Certified Master Arborist, Certified Tree Worker, Certified Treecare Safety Professional, Tree Risk Assessment Qualified Safety and Training Coordinator at Bartlett Tree Experts.


Richard Herfurth

Richard Herfurth

For Richard Herfurth, choosing a career was a simple decision.

“I threw a dart at arboriculture,” Herfurth recalls. “It was something that got me outdoors and I knew it was something I could do.”

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts (U-Mass) at Amherst and an associate degree from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture — the only place that taught commercial tree care — Herfurth went on to work for Bartlett Tree Experts.

“When he graduated from school, Rich could have gone anywhere,” says Dr. Dennis Ryan, a fellow U-Mass alumus and friend. “I’ve been in the business for 50 years and Rich is without question one of the best field arborists I have ever known. He can do anything.”

In his job as safety and training coordinator for Bartlett’s New England Division, Herfurth teaches all aspects of safety and arboriculture to every employee — whether in management or production, working with thousands of tree care consumers in the U.S. and Canada.

He regularly conducts safety and training field labs and promotes the industry to aspiring students at the University of Rhode Island and U-Mass at Amherst. He oversees the internship program in the New England region, exposing students to as many field skills and experiences as possible and checks on them over the course of the summer to ensure they’re learning proper techniques.

“I think what we do is dangerous and knowing how to do it correctly and paying attention to those best management practices is what keeps us safe,” Herfurth maintains. “I believe that good training is good safety. Some people are not aware because they’ve never been shown the correct way.”

 Among his special project initiatives, Herfurth has been instrumental in maximizing production during several Asian longhorned beetle trunk injection contracts in Massachusetts. One job involved the injection of more than 200,000 trees in Worcester.

Recently, one of his more challenging tasks involved the transplanting of a large tree to make way for reconstruction on a college campus.

Richard Herfurth

Richard Herfurth

“The Camperdown elm was 36 inches in diameter,” Herfurth explains. “To transplant something this large is unusual because we don’t do this every day. We only had to move it 100 feet, but first had to remove soil using air tools to reduce the weight so we could pick it up. It took us four days of preparation and four more days to put the 61,000 pound tree back in the ground. It was like intensive care.”

A past-president, treasurer, secretary and currently certification liaison for ISA’s New England Chapter, Herfurth is considered by many to be one of the most dedicated professional members. If there is a problem, he will find a solution. “Rich was like my right arm at ISA,” recalls Dr. Ryan. “You never need to ask him a second time. If he says he will take care of it, it’s going to be done and done right.”

“We’ve judged jamborees together for some 30 years in New England,” says Dr. Ryan. He’s asked to judge because he’s extremely fair and honest. He’s one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met in my life.”

Paul Fletcher, Herfurth’s colleague at Bartlett, describes the respectful and appreciative person he is: He is an honorable man, selfless in his approach to everything he does. Herfurth is humble about his accomplishments, but certainly fits the description of what he believes it means to be a True Professional.

“You must have honor to do the right thing when nobody is looking. It’s necessary to have courage that includes mental, physical and ethical strength. And there has to be a firm commitment — one of desire, dedication, and faithfulness to the cause.”— ISA and Richard Herfurth

Join us again next Monday, and every Monday in December, as we feature another of 2013’s True Professionals of Arboriculture. If you missed last week’s, read about True Professional and second-generation arborist Terrill Collier.

Green For Your Green

by Loose Leaf Contributor
holiday gifts

Credit: Chiot’s Run/Flickr

Each year, many of us spend hours trying to find that “perfect” gift for family, friends and coworkers … only to throw our hands up in frustration and settle for gift cards instead. This holiday season, why not make it a special one by giving the gift of trees!

For those on your list who want something more tangible to unwrap, consider supporting our planet by checking out some of American Forests’ partners who each give a little bit back when you shop:

Eddie Bauer: Since 1995, this company has asked customers to consider adding a dollar to their checkout total to plant trees with American Forests. To date, more than 5 million trees have been planted as a result. Make sure you select the “add a dollar to plant a tree” option at the checkout to help us plant 5 million more!

Origins: All-natural skincare products that help plant trees might sound too good to be true, but Origins’ Plant-A-Tree initiative with us has helped plant more than 265,000 trees worldwide. A good option for the family member who wants to look good and do good, too.

Reveal: This partner offers a selection of nature-friendly cellphone & kindle cases as well as bags, all beautifully designed and made from sustainable and recycled materials. What’s more, this company also plants trees with American Forests, so your gift helps us give back to the earth.

American Forests staff with new "One S'well, One Tree" bottles.

American Forests staff with new “One S’well, One Tree” bottles.

S’well: A newer partner of American Forests, S’well’s water bottles are made from non-leaching and non-toxic stainless steel that will keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. With the sale of each American Forests bottle, the organization will plant one tree.

Uncommongoods: A cornucopia of useful items, gifts that wow and nature-inspired products. This site not only offers gifts that are unique, but it also allows customers to select a charity to receive $1 upon checkout — we hope you’ll pick us!

WeWood: Originating in Florence, Italy, these eco-chic fashion watches were introduced to the United States in 2010. Made from repurposed wood, they can be found in both men’s and women’s styles. Each watch sold plants a tree with American Forests.

Monarchs on the Mind

by Susan Laszewski
Monarch on milkweed

Monarch on milkweed. Credit: s3728/Flickr

If you’re a regular Loose Leaf reader, you know we follow monarch butterflies pretty closely. That’s not only because they’re important pollinators, forest animals and beautiful creatures — when they cluster on the branches of the oyamel fir in their winter home, they are a landscape unto themselves. It’s also because we’ve got a dog in this fight. We’ve been actively working to restore habitat for the monarchs since our first project in Michoacán, Mexico, in 2006. With partner La Cruz Habitat Protection Project, we’ve planted a million trees to bolster their winter habitat.

So, when I saw Jim Robbins’ recent New York Times article, The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear, I had mixed feelings. The news the article brought was not good: As of mid-November, only 3 million monarchs had arrived on the scene of their winter habitat in Mexico. Last year, it was 60 million — and even that was low.

On the other hand, it’s good to know that people are paying attention to this problem. Monarch butterflies are an important species for reasons both practical and fanciful. As pollinators, they have a role to play in helping plants and crops reproduce. For the people of Michoacán, they are also economically important, bringing tourists to the area each winter. On a more sentimental note, their beautiful patterns and fluttering wings capture our imagination, and their migration — in which millions of butterflies from across North America convene on the same few acres their predecessors did, despite having never been there themselves — is one of the great astounding mysteries of nature.

So, though the news may be bad, we’ll continue pulling for the monarchs. And we’re glad to see others are, too.

More monarch butterflies in Loose Leaf:

History of the Longleaf Pine

by American Forests

By Lisa Swann

Red-cockaded woodpecker.

Red-cockaded woodpecker. Credit: Julio Mulero.

When settlers first came to what is now the southeastern U.S., they were greeted by vast pine forests — the southern longleaf pine. They noticed its spirituality, its majesty, its wildlife and its old growth trees often leaning to one side with weight.

Naturalist John Muir spent time there observing these great forests:

“In ‘pine barrens’ most of the day.  Low, level, sandy tracts; the pines wide apart; the sunny spaces between full of beautiful abounding grasses, liatris, long, wand-like solidago (goldenrod), saw palmettos, etc., covering the ground in garden style. Here I sauntered in delightful freedom, meeting none of the cat-clawed vines, or shrubs, of the alluvial bottoms.”

In colonial times, the longleaf turned out to be very valuable for lumber and for the pitch, tar and turpentine made from the trees and believed to be the origin of North Carolina’s moniker, “Tar Heel State.” Eighteenth-century ships were made entirely of wood, and North Carolina was called upon to provide so-called “naval stores” including tar, pitch and turpentine that were used to keep ship bottoms waterproof and afloat.  All from pine trees, North Carolina became a key supplier to the British Navy.

Of course, much has changed in the South over the last 500 years. A survey conducted in 1996 by a Florida researcher found that less than 0.01 percent of the remaining longleaf pine forests could be considered old growth. This handful of virgin forests is a draw for scientists, serving as a benchmark for conditions prior to European settlement.

Now efforts are underway to preserve the old-growth longleaf pine forests and provide for planting new trees. This is especially beneficial for the red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered species found mainly in mature long-leaf pine forests in southern states. Only about one percent of their original range remains. Longleaf pine communities may have covered some 92 million acres, but now fewer than 3 million acres remain.

American Forests is partnering with the U.S. Forest Service to replant an area of the Osceola National Forest. In 2007, the Bugaboo fire burned 306,984 acres in Georgia and Florida and in 2012, the County Line Fire added insult to injury. This specific section of the national forest is newly acquired land that was formerly private industry timber lands used for pine plantations.

The project is planting longleaf pine, creating potential habitat for the threatened gopher tortoise. The tortoise’s population has greatly decreased due to habitat loss and humans using it for food.

And in Florida, American Forests is planting 30,000 longleaf pine trees near the St. Johns River as part of the Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park Longleaf Planting.

Please help us protect and restore forests through projects like these.

Learn more about longleaf pine.

The Arbor Advisor

by Loose Leaf Contributor

Each year, the International Society of Arborists (ISA) recognizes several arborists as “True Professionals of Arboriculture” for their unique contributions to the field. These arborists do not limit themselves to tree care, but also work to educate and reach out to the local community about the importance of urban forests.

As the New Year draws closer, Loose Leaf will dedicate each Monday in December to one of 2013’s five True Professionals in appreciation of their work and the work of arborists everywhere on behalf of our trees.

We’ll start by taking a look at the life and work of second-generation arborist Terrill Collier, a plant health care consultant for Collier Arbor Care, a division of Bartlett Tree Experts, in Portland, Ore.


Terrill Collier tree climbing.

Terrill Collier tree climbing. Credit: Terrill Collier/ISA

Terrill Collier is an outdoors kind of guy. He started backpacking in high school and completed a three-day trip around Mt. Hood, the highest mountain in Oregon, by himself. Ever the adventurer, Collier went to Europe after college for two years, traveling to 14 Western European countries. “When I finally came back to the states and settled down in the family business,” Collier recalls, “I realized that I loved my career as an arborist and have been at it ever since.”

Collier Arbor Care of Portland, Ore., began with Terrill’s dad as head of sales driving the company truck and his mom as the bookkeeper who also handled the phone. Today, Collier’s wife, Janet, is his business partner, co-owner and office manager. Their son, Logan, is a third generation ISA Certified Arborist and competition tree climber, joining 26 employees who have made this small business one of the premier arboriculture firms in the Beaver State.

“I grew up exposed to the business of arboriculture and learned to help out,” says Collier. “One of my father’s favorite sayings was work smarter, not harder. When I took over as manager of the business in 1980, he said to get ahead and be the most professional company we could be, we needed to belong to an organization like ISA. We became founding members of the ISA Pacific Northwest Chapter.”

Collier advances the arboriculture profession by promoting best practices. He publishes, “The Arbor Advisor,” a client newsletter with advice on proper tree care. He is also a leader in sustainable landscape practices and wants his company to be on the leading edge in the green industry.

Terrill Collier at work.

Terrill Collier at work. Credit: Terrill Collier/ISA

“Many other industries claim to be green, but I believe that arborists are the original ‘greenies,’” maintains Collier. “I subscribe to the philosophy of running our company by the new triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. You need to take care of your people and the community, protect the planet and show a profit year after year in order to be sustainable.”

For the past five years, Collier has been working on the sustainability initiative for his business which also includes: an organic nutrition program for trees and shrubs, solar electric at the Collier office, a bio-wash pad for cleaning the company fleet of trucks and recycling office and industrial waste.

Collier’s peers say his arboriculture footprint reaches far and wide as past president of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of ISA, promoting the Trees Are Good website, encouraging ISA certification among his employees and running one of the most civic-minded tree care companies in his region.

“I have been a volunteer for various committees and Boards in our industry for the past 30 years. When I volunteer, I get back more than the time I have put in. Working with leaders in arboriculture helps advance my skill and knowledge. I encourage young arborists to step forward. It will pay back to you many fold.”—ISA and Terrill Collier

Come back next Monday as we celebrate an arborist who’s inspiring the next generation.

Season’s Eatings

by American Forests

By Marcelene Sutter

Traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner

Traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Credit: Ruocaled/Flickr

Have you ever wondered where the tradition of Thanksgiving turkey came from? Perhaps we owe this delicious custom to the way that we used to eat — seasonally. Before buying locally and eating seasonally became trendy, they were simply a way of life. It makes sense: Greens were popular in the spring, when they began to sprout, and summer vegetables, like corn and tomatoes, were enjoyed in the heat. Turkeys and chickens born in the spring would reach optimal roasting size by autumn, making them ideal for fall feasts.

This era of eating locally was not, relatively speaking, very long ago, but now that we have the ability to transport out-of-season produce to stores on a consistent basis, it’s not difficult to find tomatoes or asparagus on the shelf of your local supermarket in the dead of winter. Convenience aside, is the ability to eat out of season worth it? From an economic, environmental and taste standpoint, the answer might be no.

Fresh tomatoes on display at a Sacramento, CA farmers market.

Fresh tomatoes on display at a Sacramento, CA farmers market. Credit: Robert Course-Baker

The transportation of out-of-season produce not only costs more compared to local produce because of the increased distance from field to table, but also has a much more pronounced environmental impact. When the use of aircraft or a longer journey by truck is required to transport these fruits and vegetables, more fossil fuels are consumed and more emissions released into the atmosphere, contributing to pollution. Increased air pollution can result in acid rain, which contributes significantly to forest soil degradation and can injure or even kill trees. Furthermore, foods that have longer distances to travel are harvested before they fully ripen, which means that the consumer loses out on maximum flavor potential, and is buying a more expensive and harder to digest product.

There are a few simple things that you can do to lessen the environmental impact of your holiday meals. By shopping at farmers markets or buying as locally as possible, you can limit the environmental effects associated with getting food from the earth to the dinner table. Planning dinners while staying conscious of what produce is in season will help you to create tastier dishes that help preserve the environment and support community businesses. No matter what you cook for Thanksgiving dinner, we at American Forests wish you a happy holiday season!

President Kennedy and the National Forests

by Alison Share, Environmental Public Policy Associate, Crowell & Moring LLP

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Much of the coverage and retrospective articles you have no doubt seen cover the events of that Friday, November 22, 1963. Others focus on the Cuban missile crisis and his interactions with the former Soviet Union. But for all of the reflections on President Kennedy’s policies in the realm of foreign policy and civil rights, it is what he did for our national forests that is the topic of this retrospective.

Caribbean National Forest

President Kennedy’s second Executive Order pertaining to national forests redefined the boundaries of the Caribbean National Forest. Credit: Bryan Vincent

The National Archives contains a record of all the Executive Orders (EO) issued since the Hoover Administration, although currently you can only view specific EOs dating back to 1937 online. But all of President Kennedy’s are listed there, which is where we find his legacy relating to national forests (NF).

Not quite four months after his inauguration, in April of 1961, President Kennedy issued the first of his seven EOs concerning national forests. The first one modified the boundaries of nine forests in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin, excluding lands that had previously been in private ownership. The second and third ones were issued on the same day, February 9, 1962, in the second year of his presidency. Both EOs altered existing national forests. The second redefined the boundaries of the Caribbean NF in Puerto Rico while the third actually consolidated two separate national forests in Michigan: the Hiawatha and the Marquette.

The Hiawatha NF, in the Upper Peninsula, currently consists of approximately 1 million acres, almost a quarter of which was part of the former Marquette NF. Three months later, in his fourth EO, President Kennedy added the additional land of Round Island to the Hiawatha NF. In addition to extending the acreage of the Hiawatha, the EO also transferred lands between the Mark Twain and the Clark National Forests in Missouri.

Cherokee National Forest

Cherokee National Forest gained land as a result of two Executive Orders of President Kennedy. Credit: John W. Iwanski

Twenty-six parcels of land within Tennessee and Virginia were allocated to the Cherokee and Jefferson National Forests by the fifth EO, issued November, 1962. The specific parcels of land designated by President Kennedy were identified in a prior agreement between the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Department of Agriculture (the agency that houses the U.S. Forest Service) as appropriate for national forest lands.

On the same day, November 29, 1962, the Federal Register published President Kennedy’s sixth EO, which emulated the parameters of the fifth one and formalized an agreement set out between the Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This time, lands near the Nantahala and the Cherokee National Forests, located in North Carolina and Tennessee, were included in and reserved as a part of the two national forests. President Kennedy’s seventh, and final, EO concerning the national forests was published in the Federal Register on January 1, 1963. This EO extended the boundaries of the previously designated Superior NF in Minnesota, and the Clark NF in Missouri. If you’ll remember, the Clark benefited from a land transfer from the Mark Twain NF in President Kennedy’s fourth EO.

Even though President Kennedy never designated new forestlands, he did enhance and add to the forests already in existence when he assumed office in 1961. Even without a new designation, and having less than one term in office, President Kennedy made his mark upon numerous national forests throughout the southeast and the Midwest. Ask not, indeed.