Forest Digest – Week of May 16, 2016

by American Forests
old-growth forest

Credit: Yinghai Lu

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

Experience Autumn in the Rockies: Behold the Quaking Aspen

by American Forests

By Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Communications Intern

quaking aspen

Credit: John B. Kalla via Flickr.

While we’re anxiously awaiting our travels to Rocky Mountain National Park this September, let’s learn a bit about the star of the Rockies’ autumnal show — the quaking aspen.

The quaking aspen is the most widely distributed tree in North America and can be identified by their smooth, white bark that is marked by black scares where lower branches are naturally self-pruned. The leaves of the quaking aspen are heart-shaped, with finely saw-toothed margins. The leaves attach to branches via a long and flattened petiole, which causes the leaves to flutter at even the slightest breeze — hence the name “quaking aspen.” In the spring and summer, leaves are glossy green. But, during the fall, leaves transform into a rainbow of yellow, gold and, in some instances, red. These beautiful fall colors are very important to many communities in the West, and tourists travel hundreds of miles to view them.

The quaking aspen also has a unique winter survival mechanism. Beneath the aspen’s thin white outer bark is a thin photosynthetic green layer. This layer allows the plant to synthesize sugars and retain bark, making it survival food for deer and elk during hard winters.

Quaking aspens are extremely unique for a number of reasons. First, unlike most trees that spread through flowering and sexual reproduction, the quaking aspen reproduce asexually, by sprouting new trees from the expansive lateral root of the parent. Thus, each tree isn’t technically an individual, but is one part of a massive single clone. “The Trembling Giant,” or Pando, is an enormous grove of quaking aspens in Utah, very recently thought to be the world’s largest organism, spanning 107 acres and weighing 6,615 tons. During autumn, you can see where the different aspen stands are located — the trees of a particular clone will change color at the same time because they are genetically related.


Credit: Bryce Bradford via Flickr.

Another unique feature of the quaking aspen is its relationship with fire. The aspen is considered a fire-induced successional species. Fire reduces the overstory, stimulates shoots to sprout and kills invading conifers growing in the aspen clone. A fire intense enough to kill an aspen overstory will stimulate abundant suckering — as many as 50,000 to 100,000 suckers can sprout and grow on a single acre after a fire.

The quaking aspen is just one of the interesting and beautiful plant species that we will get to see on our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park!

Make sure to reserve your spot soon to avoid missing out on the trip of a lifetime.

Meet Our New Director of Corporate Giving

by American Forests

Lindsey HuerterLindsey Huerter recently came to American Forests as our new director of corporate giving. We’re excited for the experience, enthusiasm and new ideas she’s bringing to the position and the organization — and we think you should be excited, too! From why she’s looking forward to helping further the American Forests’ mission to the story behind her favorite tree, read more about Lindsey.

  • Why did you choose to go into conservation?
    My background is in sports. I have worked for baseball teams and in college athletics the past eight years. While I love the atmosphere that comes with a ball game, I have desired for quite some time to find a role that allows me to truly make an impact on the environment that so many species call home. My position with American Forests allows me to do just that each and every day. Growing up in west Michigan, I was surrounded by beaches and forests that provided years of memories with friends and family. I am excited to be a part of an organization working hard to make that an opportunity for future generations.
  • What aspects of American Forests’ work are you most excited to be a part of?
    There are many aspects of my new role I am looking forward to, but I think what I am most excited about is the ability to be both a professional and personal advocate for the work I am representing. I love developing new relationships with the community I am a part of, and being able to passionately share the mission and vision of American Forests is something I can’t wait to start doing. It’s a great feeling to know I can help American Forests build partnerships that will help fund national and international programs rebuilding crucial ecosystems.
  • What do you think are the most significant challenges facing forests today?
    While there are many challenges facing forests today, the one that really resonates with me is the loss of habitat for species due to the destruction of important ecosystems. Human activity, such as land development, can negatively impact the resources wildlife needs to flourish. And, it is great to know that the biggest issues our forests are encountering are being addressed by an organization I get to be a part of.
  • Do you have a favorite story from your years in the field?
    I haven’t worked in conservation prior to this role but do have many great stories from my five years working with the Dayton Dragons, the single A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The Dragons helped me discover what truly drives me as a professional and that is impacting the community I am a part of in a positive way. Due to the incredibly generous corporate partners of the Dragons, I had the opportunity to provide families with their first chance to come out to a game together, honor a child overcoming their battle with cancer during a special inning break presentation, highlight nonprofits providing valuable services to the Dayton area and give kids a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and interview Dragons players and their mascot. The Dragons, and local organizations throughout the Miami Valley, put such an emphasis on community involvement, and getting to implement so many incredible outreach programs was a blessing. I am really looking forward to helping American Forests and their corporate partners make a difference both nationally and internationally.
  • What is your favorite tree and why?
    Selecting a favorite tree is a tough question. Where I grew up in Michigan, we were lucky enough to experience a breathtaking, albeit short lived, autumn. Fall in Michigan was something I always looked forward to. The changing colors, jumping in raked leaves and the anticipation of the snow that would soon arrive were all highlights of my childhood in Grand Rapids. While these colors left a lasting impression on me, it would have to be the White Pine that I claim as my favorite tree. When visiting a friend in northern Michigan, we ventured over to Higgins Lake. The water was a stunning turquoise color, something you would expect to see on vacation in the Bahamas, yet here it was just two hours north of my home town. The only giveaway that we were still in Michigan was the greenery surrounding us. White pine, spruce and fir trees were sprinkled around the lake, giving the view its signature pure-Michigan touch. I love heading north when I am back home and experiencing this view all over again.

Forest Digest – Week of May 9, 2016

by American Forests

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

  • Climate Change Means More Wildfires In Earth’s Boreal ForestsHeadlines & Global News
    Recent research from scientists at the University of Montana proposes that wildfires, similar to the one currently ravaging through Canada, will continue to impact boreal forests in the wake of climate change.
  • ESA satellite will study Earth’s forestsThe Space Reporter
    The European Space Agency is scheduled to launch a satellite, called BIOMASS, in 2021 that will help record the height and weight of earth’s forests and monitor how they change over time.
  • Invasive insects are ravaging U.S. forests, and it’s costing us billionsWashington Post
    Recent news resulting from research into the “sudden oak death,” which has killed more than a million trees in California, reveals that the pathogen can no longer be eradicated, only contained and harm mitigated.
  • MRI imaging moves from hospitals to forests to help sick trees —
    A study published in the Journal of Plant Physiology reveals insight into the use of advanced imaging technologies — typically used on human patients — on plants and trees to better understand how they are affected by severe drought and the ways in which varying species recover.

Experience Autumn in the Rockies: Getting to Know the Majestic Elk

by American Forests

By Shandra FurtadoCommunications Intern

A solitary elk bull grazing in Rocky Mountain National Park

A solitary elk bull grazing in Rocky Mountain National Park. Credit: Kent Kanouse via Flickr.

Hundreds of years ago, an estimated 10 million Elk roamed North America. Today, with only a fraction of that population confined to their now limited habitat, the elk signifies the wildest places in the country. Traveling to these places gives a glimpse into the past, giving an idea of how the country was before settlement when elk roamed the North American continent with ease.

American Forests is giving you a chance to experience the American West in all of its splendor through our fall expedition to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Long ago, when the elk populated the continent in such a widespread manner, Western Native American culture gave the elk a significant role. Before European settlers, they relied on elk for food and even the inedible parts were not left to waste. They used hides as blankets and robes, and some tribes even used them to cover their tipis. They used the canine teeth and antlers as decorative clothing accessories and jewelry. They had been painting and carving elk images into cliffs for thousands of years before settlers even arrived.

Yet, when settlers arrived a mass butchery of these beloved creatures began to slowly take place over the next few hundred years. Today, only 10 percent of the original population are still around. The strong hold this species had on all habitat types of North America slowly started to diminish, as the elk could only survive in the most remote areas of the country where humans were at a distance.

Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect place for humans and elk to strike a balance. The elk are able to roam freely while humans can admire from afar.

An elk bull bugling at an elk cow

An elk bull bugling at an elk cow. Credit: John Carrel via Flickr.

American Forests’ Rocky Mountain National Park trip will take place during the height of the rutting period, or mating season. At this time, the female cows are gathered into small harems by the male bulls. At this time, the bulls preform an act they are most known for: bugling. The bugle starts throaty and progresses to a whistle, ending in a series of low grunts. The combination of the large harems and the sound of the bugle gives an insight into the truly majestic nature of these iconic creatures.

Join us in September by registering online and get the chance to see the elk in action!

5 of the Most Famous Trees around the World

by American Forests

This post brought to you by the tree experts at Clauser Tree Care.

Trees are best known for providing us with oxygen, but they’re also beautiful living organisms that can live for thousands of years. You may be familiar with the ones planted in your neighborhood and never think much of them, but there are trees that people travel the world to see. Learn more about five of the world’s most famous trees:

  1. The Ashbrittle Yew
    Located in the heart of England’s Somerset County, the Ashbrittle Yew is estimated to be around 3,000-4,000 years old. With a girth of 38 feet, the Ashbrittle Yew is beloved by many, including the locals of the village. Rumor has it that a pre-Roman chief is buried under the mound.


    Credit: Martin Bodman via Wikimedia Commons.

  2. General Sherman
    This giant sequoia can be found in California’s Sequoia National Park. Measuring 52,500 cubic feet, General Sherman is the largest tree in the entire world. The tree was named after Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman and is estimated to be about 2,000 years old.

    General Sherman

  3. Tree of Ténéré
    Formerly known as “The Most Isolated Tree in the World,” the Tree of Ténéré stood on its own for a 250-mile radius in Niger’s Sahara desert. In 1973, the tree was run over by a drunk driver, causing the trunk to snap. The tree was admired by locals, and its remains can now be found in a mausoleum at the Niger National Museum in Niamey.

    Tree of Ténéré

    Credit: Michel Mazeau via Wikimedia Commons

  4. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
    Brought over to Sri Lanka from India, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is believed to have been planted in the Mahameghavana Park in Anuradhapura by King Devanampiyatissa in 249 BC, making it the oldest documented tree in the world. The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a sacred tree, believed to have grown from the branch of the fig tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment.

    Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

    Credit: VSL Travels via Flickr.

  5. Major Oak
    Standing in the heart of Sherwood Forest of Nottinghamshire, England, the Major Oak is believed to be the tree where Robin Hood once took shelter. The age of this English Oak is believed to be between 800-1,000 years old. Weighing an estimated 23 tons, Major Oak has a girth of 33 feet and branches that spread up to 92 feet. In 2014, Major Oak was named “England’s Tree of the Year.”

    Major Oak

    Credit: John W. Schulze via Flickr.

Trees are fascinating fixtures that can tell a story dating back to before our ancestors were even born. Pay a visit to the sites of these ancient trees to experience a larger piece of history!

Forest Digest – Week of May 2, 2016

by American Forests

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

Experience Autumn in the Rockies: Join Us for an Exclusive Adventure

by American Forests

By Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Communications Intern

Rocky Mountain National Park

Credit: Daniel Mayer via Wikimedia Commons.

Join American Forests this September 18-25, as we take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Colorado’s breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park. We’ll have six days and five nights to spend in Estes Park — the entrance community to Rocky Mountain National Park. There, we’ll have the chance to unwind and reconnect with nature during one of the most beautiful times of the year.

We’ll be staying at the famous, historic Lodge of The Stanley Hotel, best known for being the inspiration for Stephen King’s novel, “The Shining.” While at The Lodge, we will have the chance to sit back and enjoy private cocktail receptions and memorable dinners and enjoy the splendor of autumn as the aspen trees reach their peak golden color. Rocky Mountain National Park is renowned for its beautiful mountain landscapes and the vibrant autumnal colors of its trees. Rocky Mountain’s backbone includes some of the highest mountains in the continental United States, and the landscapes on either side of the Continental Divide feature alpine lakes, forested valleys and a cornucopia of plants and animals.

After the U.S. government acquired the National Park through the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, explorers, miners and speculators alike were drawn to the park for its rugged beauty and natural resources. This autumn, we get the chance to experience the same jaw-dropping sights of the park, while partaking in activities such as fly fishing, hiking and downhill biking on the highest paved road in the country. Our chances to view Rocky Mountain’s wildlife will be abundant, including big horn sheep, coyotes, bobcats and elk.

Every morning will begin with a beautiful breakfast prepared by The Lodge’s innkeeper and French pastry chef, Midge, before we head out to explore the park. The Stanley Hotel inspired Stephen King to write “The Shining” after he and his wife Tabitha spent one night as the hotel’s only guests that night in 1974 — in the infamous Room 217. The hotel is also known for its architecture and magnificent setting, as well as being featured as one of America’s most haunted hotels. But, don’t worry, The Lodge, where we will be staying, is a newly-renovated, 40-room boutique hotel adjacent to the main hotel.

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel. Credit: Miguel Vieira via Wikimedia Commons.

Our last full day in the park will consist of a fly fishing adventure, where we will have the opportunity to fish for four different species of trout: rainbow, brown, brook and the endemic greenback cutthroat. We’ll end our trip with a private dinner where we can reflect upon the memories and friends we’ve made along the journey, and learn more about American Forests from our CEO and President, Scott Steen.

This is a sure-to-be-unforgettable trip you’re not going to want to miss! Make sure to reserve your spot soon, as spots are filling up quickly.

Meet Our New Director of Forest Conservation

by American Forests

Eric SpragueEric Sprague recently came to American Forests as our new director of forest conservation. Before joining American Forests, Eric directed the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s efforts to restore forest ecosystems and has also worked with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, The Conservation Fund and the U.S. EPA’s smart growth program. We’re excited for the depth of knowledge, experience and perspective he’s bringing to the position and the organization — and we think you should be excited, too! From exciting tales from the field to why he chose to work in conservation, read more about Eric.

  • Why did you choose to go into conservation?
    Being outdoors was not a regular event for me growing up, but when I did get the chance, the experiences stuck with me: hiking through the gorges in Turkey Run State Park, discovering secluded groves in our local park, exploring my aunt and uncle’s woods and climbing the tulip magnolia in our front yard. My awe for nature was magnified over time as I learned how important it was to our lives: clean water and air, habitat for wildlife and quality of life. Conservation gives me a daily excuse to further my awe for the natural world while contributing tangible benefits to society.
  • What aspects of American Forests’ work are you most excited to be a part of?
    I am incredibly excited to be working in some of the most important natural areas in the country, including the Rocky Mountains, Hawaiian forests and the longleaf pine landscapes of the Southeastern United States. American Forests is unique in that it can work nationally while building partnerships and making restoration investments locally.
  • What do you think are the most significant challenges facing forests today?
    Forests have evolved in a changing landscape for millennia. Many plants and wildlife species actually depend on this regular change. However, a new set of changes, including sprawling development, climate change, invasive species and pests and past land use decisions, are challenging the resilience of our forests. How governments, forestland owners, developers, environmental groups and others respond to the cumulative impacts of these changes will shape the future of our forests and the benefits they provide society.
  • Do you have a favorite story from your years in the field?
    I have a number of good stories from the field like watching a group of juvenile bald eagles attempting to catch river otters running to open water across a stretch of ice. Adult bald eagles watched on from perches in nearby trees as if knowing what a fruitless exercise it was. My favorite stories, though, have involved helping landowners restore and conserve their lands for the future. In Prince George’s County, Md., I was able to help finance a loan to a family interested in protecting their woods in a growing area. The loan allowed the family to place an easement on the property and establish a forest mitigation bank. The family is repaying the loan as they sell “credits” to developers seeking to comply with development regulations.
  • What is your favorite tree and why?
    Isn’t the white oak everybody’s favorite tree? What’s not to love? White oaks are beautiful, long-lived trees that provide habitat for numerous animals. The rough and flaky bark of mature oak trees provide habitat for more kinds of insects than any other hardwood. The insects, in turn, set off a food chain for many mammals and birds. Also, you can’t have bourbon without a new white oak barrel.

Forest Digest – Week of April 25, 2016

by American Forests
Creek in forest.

Credit: Cristie Wrazen.

Find out the latest in forestry news in this week’s Forest Digest! This week, each article corresponds to the element of water as part of our Earth Month campaign and why #WeNeedForests.

Share your own stories with us and join our Earth Month conversation by using the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!