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

Capturing the Beauty of Trees in Our Cities

by American Forests

We know we need forests — they provide a myriad of benefits that we simply can’t live without. But, urban forests are equally important in many respects! The trees within our cities not only provide health and economic benefits to residents, but they simply making city living a bit more beautiful. Below is a collection of photographs by Chuck Fazio, our Artist-in-Residence, taken in urban cities. Sometimes, it’s nice to simply stop…and take in the beauty that trees provide in the backdrop of urban living.

tree-lined street

Fountain in park

Charleston square

Trees in city

People on tree-lined street

Neighborhood with trees

tree-lined corner

A Long-Term Investment: Restoring the Longleaf Pine Forests of the Southeastern U.S.

by American Forests

By Eric Sprague, Director of Forest Conservation

Longleaf pines

Longleaf pines. Credit: Eric Sprague.

As we stepped out of Lamar Colomander’s truck, we were met with one of North America’s finest birdsongs — Bachman’s sparrow — and the fragrant ‘piney woods’ smell of the surrounding longleaf pine forest. The mature longleaf pine canopy was patchy and allowed plenty of light to hit the forest floor supporting saw palmetto, wiregrass and other plants on the forest floor. To the right of the forest road, a black fox squirrel with a white patch on its nose and feet raced up a nearby tree. These squirrels are so large that some visitors to Norfolk Southern’s Brosnan Forest think they are raccoons.

Longleaf forests like this are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world outside of the tropics: 900 plant species are found nowhere else and 26 species are threatened or endangered. When asked about longleaf pine restoration, Larry, who manages these forests at Milliken Forestry, told us that this diversity depends on one thing: fire. Periodic, low-intensity fires prevent less fire resistant species from establishing and help create soils that support unique species. Without fires, populations of gopher tortoise, red-cockaded woodpecker, eastern indigo snake and many other species will continue to struggle.

This fire-adapted ecosystem used to cover 90 million acres across the Southeastern United States. Today, longleaf pine forests cover just 3 percent of the former range — a staggering reduction in range that more than rivals well-known losses in southeastern wetland and world rainforest habitats. The Longleaf Alliance, and other private and public partners, have created a plan to expand the area of longleaf forests to 8 million acres by 2024.

black fox squirrel

Black fox squirrel. Credit: Eric Sprague.

American Forests is looking for ways to expand its role in longleaf pine restoration. Over the last 25 years, we have planted 7.4 million longleaf pines in the southeast, but we know much more work is needed. Brosnan Forest was an ideal place to generate ideas as they have been a leader in longleaf pine restoration. Brosnan Forest manages more than 6,000 acres of longleaf pine forest and is actively converting loblolly pine and loblolly/longleaf mixed stands into longleaf pine forest. The Brosnan Forest also converts marginal farmland into longleaf pine forests which can be a difficult process. The key to all of their restoration is, of course, fire. Every couple of years, prescribed fires are introduced into various stands across the forest. Norfolk Southern and Milliken Forestry are also harvesting loblolly pine from stands to create space for longleaf pine regeneration.

Due to the continual need for fire and control of new threats, like the Japanese climbing fern, longleaf pine forest restoration is a long-term investment. Enhancing restoration funding for both public and private lands is a key challenge. Brosnan Forest is an important model in this regards as it represents one of the largest remaining blocks of privately held longleaf pine forest. They are combining traditional forest management with new strategies, like carbon credits, to support restoration. Economic strategies that support habitat restoration and benefit the landowner are paramount, as around 55 percent of existing longleaf forests occur on private lands.

Longleaf pine forests are an important part of the United States cultural and natural heritage. American Forests will continue to work with partners to improve and restore longleaf pine ecosystems across the southeast.

Forest Digest – Week of May 30, 2016

by American Forests

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

Why I’m here: My Ongoing Green Journey

by American Forests

By Salsabil Chebli, Policy Intern


Salsabil just outside Marrakesh, Morocco.

The day that had been anticipated for an entire year — May 31, 2016 — I finally began my long overdue internship at American Forests. American Forests was brought to my attention by a dear friend, Sofia Maia Goldstein, who interned here and had the most admirable experience. She told me almost every day how delightful the internship is, how amazing Rebecca Turner is and I knew I had to gain the experience myself (both of us environmental policy majors).

On my first day, I can already relate and apply so many policies and terms I learned in my classes to what I am involved in at the office. It is so refreshing to be able to make the connections from class to real life. I learn better hands-on, and I can’t imagine a more fulfilling internship to get me started on my career path. I truly believe this will be more than just an internship for me, I feel in my element at American Forests.

For me, experience is the most valued. How I can make the most out of my time and make a difference in the world are two aspects I live by.

I moved to the United States from Morocco when I was nine years old. About 20 minutes from my house is one of the most beautiful parks, Great Falls National Park. My best friend introduced me to it, and we would always find ourselves at our “secret” mini-beach spot where we had a view that overlooks much of the beautiful scenery, considering how low it is. Going to Great Falls became a tradition with her and our families. The proximity of Great Falls to my house made me love it that much more, I have to make little effort to enjoy what I love.

Growing up in Morocco, my family and I spent a substantial amount of time in rural areas where my father’s family is from. I grew to love nature and everything else that compliments it.

But, it wasn’t until my later high school years that I realized how significant nature is in my life. I decided I want to be involved in the protection and restoration of our beautiful, underappreciated surroundings.

What captures my interest the most are the crucial functions of trees in urban communities. Trees are no doubt some of the most important elements, and I learned that I am the happiest when surrounded by them whether it be in the city, or rural areas. Since I want to expand my knowledge of green cities and the tremendous role trees play in urban settings, American Forests is the best place to do that.

I am confident my experiences and background will help me excel at American Forests and in protecting our environment.

Forest Digest – Week of May 23, 2016

by American Forests

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

Experience Autumn in the Rockies: Fly Fishing for the Colorado Grand Slam

by American Forests

By Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Communications Intern

Our final day on our fall adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park is our fly fishing day! After a homemade breakfast at the Lodge of the Stanley Hotel, we’ll head into the park for a guided fly fishing tour suitable for all levels of fishing expertise, from beginners to experts. Our fly fishing guide, Eddie, will be showing us the ropes of fly fishing amidst the beauty of the Rockies and bringing us to the best spots in the park for catching trout. All the materials you need for a perfect fly fishing trip will be provided, including waders and reels.

We’ll get the chance to fish for what is known as the Colorado Grand Slam, which includes four different species of trout. While on our fishing adventure, you can look out for rainbow, brown, brook and the greenback cutthroat trout species.

The greenback cutthroat trout is unique to the area and was actually presumed to be extinct by 1937, until several wild populations of what were thought to be greenback cutthroat trout were discovered in the South Platte and Arkansas basins starting in the late 1950s. This discovery prompted an aggressive conservation effort, and the greenback was designated as Colorado’s state fish in 1996.

An Adventurer’s Connection to Nature: Q&A with Eddie Bauer Guide Ben Ditto

by American Forests
Ben Ditto

Ben Ditto and Jon Gleason cozy up for a cold night 19 pitches up Fitzroy, a patagonian mountain located in Argentina. Photo courtesy of Ben Ditto.

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 Ben Ditto. Ditto is an avid climber and has climbed all over the world, including in the Indian Himalayas and the Peruvian and Patagonian Andes. He is also a photographer and filmmaker and has done work to spotlight the peregrine falcon. During his summers, Ditto serves as a “climber in residence” in Yosemite Valley. In the following interview, learn more about Ditto’s connection to the forests and 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: A mix of Nature and Nurture combined to allow me to find inspiration in the outdoors as a youngster. My outdoorsy father has a weak spot for unknown places on any map. As a kid growing up around Chattanooga, Tenn., there are a great number of forests, mountains and Canyons to explore. In those days it was very common for me and my brothers to join my father at cold winter campsites and on isolated trails. It was through him that I learned to love the unknown and be okay with being lost in the woods, the canyon or the white-out. Thanks to my Dad and the landscape around Chattanooga, I had exposure to climbing, trails, rivers and, believe it or not, a little bit of snow every now and then. So, it was quite a fun childhood.

Ben Ditto climbing, Fish Eye, in Spain

Ben Ditto climbing, Fish Eye, in Spain at the well known cliff, Oliana. Credit: Doug Mcdonnell.

Q: Of all the creatures to go to bat for, so to speak, what is it about the peregrine falcon?

A: Due to our behavior as humans, we are culpable for the extinction of a great many species whose habitat is rapidly changing. As a climber, one of the species that I have encountered worldwide is the great cliff dwelling raptor, the peregrine falcon. Between the 1950s and 1980s, the peregrine almost became extinct due to the pesticide DDT.  Due to recovery efforts from scientists around the world, and the ban of DDT, top tier predators, such as the peregrine falcon, have made a remarkable recovery. I find the peregrine falcon to be an inspiring success story, and I love to see them soar and hunt among the steep walls of Yosemite. My work filming the peregrine falcon is motivated by a desire to promote respect among climbers for something beyond themselves.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon as seen from el capitan. Photo courtesy of Ben Ditto.

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

A: I think that we all have a personal perspective that can inform our friends and families about issues that are important in our lives. My goal as a content creator is to provide information about environmental issues and low impact ways of living so that people who may be paying attention can take this information into account while making decisions about their own lives. I think people make better decisions when they have more information about subjects. I hope to inspire people to live outside of the box when it comes to work, living simply and respecting nature and all the organisms on the earth, including themselves.

Ben Ditto navigates a tyro lean traverse

Ben Ditto navigates another tyro lean traverse above a river in Argentina. Credit: Andrew Mclean.

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

A: Being out in the landscape keeps me focused on the important things in life. Whether I’m climbing, skiing or just out for a walk, being in nature keeps me humble by reminding me to pay attention to what I’m doing and that I’m just a tiny part of what is happening on the planet. The tiredness I feel after a long day in the mountains also helps me to appreciate the simple things in life.

Ben Ditto (orange shirt) runs back and forth to complete the king swing on El Capitan's famous nose route.

Ben Ditto (orange shirt) runs back and forth to complete the king swing on El Capitan’s famous nose route. Credit: Tom Evans.