Escape to Alaska: Up Close & Personal with the Dall Sheep

by American Forests

By Shandra Furtado, Communications Intern

Dall Sheep

Dall sheep

Experiencing the vast grandeur of the Alaskan terrain and wildlife is a rejuvenating occasion, one which American Forests is giving individuals the opportunity to explore this July through our Escape to Alaska expedition in Denali National Park.

Across the slopes and ridges of Denali, it’s not uncommon to encounter a group of Dall sheep striding across the uneven surface with a grace that seems impossible for their stature. Groups of bachelor rams travel solo in the mating off-season, sporting hefty curled horns that can weigh up to 22 pounds. Rams with similar sized horns regularly butt heads for status validation. Horn size establishes social hierarchy and mating rights for the fall breeding season, the only time rams associate with the female ewes and young[1].

Ewes typically give birth to one lamb in the spring and select steep rocky habitats during the next few months to lower risk from predators. A balance of proximity between feeding areas and escape terrain is key for protecting the young lambs.

The Dall sheep may be hard-headed, but they are no match for climate change in alpine mountain areas. They have a limited range and specialized habitat and, thus, considered an indicator species by the National Park Service[2]. Dall sheep are remarkably sensitive to shifts in local environmental conditions, such as locations of plant communities and intensifying winter storms. They depend on snow-free areas to forage for food during winter months, and heavier wet snow in the winter months can make climbing high ridges dangerous for the sheep. Conversely, warmer temperatures in summer months are changing the alpine plant communities that the sheep thrive on.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s population estimate has dropped 21 percent in the last two decades[3]. Fortunately for now, the declining population has not pushed the Dall sheep over the edge to endangered species status. Monitoring efforts are currently being used to detect changes in population, sheep diets and climate change associated with the alpine environment[4].

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to see the Dall sheep in all of its mountain glory with us this summer by registering online!


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American Forests, Eddie Bauer Launch The One Tree Initiative with Philanthropic Ambassador, Ryan Reynolds

by American Forests

Today, we launched The One Tree Initiative with longtime partner Eddie Bauer and their philanthropic ambassador, Ryan Reynolds. The One Tree Initiative focuses on Eddie Bauer’s continued support of our mission to protect and restore forests all over the world, one tree at a time. One person, one dollar and one tree can have an impact on the future of our forests.

We hope the following public service announcement inspires a united commitment to forest conservation.

Learn more about our partnership and how you can help with The One Tree Initiative.


How Trees React to Winter Extremes

by American Forests

By Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Communications Intern

Winter landscape.

Credit: Chuck Fazio, Artist-in-Residence.

In light of the recently dipping temperatures thanks to Winter Storm Jonas, have you ever thought about how certain trees are able to thrive in such extreme cold? While you’re cozying up on the couch this evening with a piping mug of hot chocolate, take a minute to read about the amazing processes trees go through to keep warm through the winter months.

What Happens When It Gets Cold?

Some trees are able to survive down to the temperatures of liquid nitrogen, or -196° C/-320° F! That leads to the question of: how? Trees go dormant in the winter and will acclimate in order to prevent death by ice crystals. See, living things can’t necessarily die from just temperature alone. What is really deadly is when water freezes inside of the cell. When water freezes, its molecules reorient themselves into expanded, geometric shapes that can then rip through the walls of the tree’s cells.

How Do They Do It?

As the days get shorter and temperatures start dropping, a chemical chain reaction occurs, telling the tree that it is time to stop growing in anticipation for winter. These hormones cause leaves to fall, growth to stop, stomata to close, sap to stop flowing, as well as causing physical changes to trees’ cells to allow them to withstand freezing temperatures. During the cell’s physical change, the plasma membrane becomes more flexible, and sometimes even permeable, and sometimes water molecules are swapped out with sugar molecules. Since the plasma membrane now has increased flexibility, it is better equipped to handle the pointiness of frozen water molecules if they happen to puncture through the cell wall. During acclimation, major changes are also happening to the contents of the cell itself. The large vacuole, which usually consists of mostly water, are replaced by smaller compartments of increasingly freeze-resistant starch, proteins and fats.

Super Trees

The last step is one that only certain trees sometimes take to survive through the harsh chill of winter. When temperatures are cold enough, we’re talking like -26° C, certain forms of sugar that fill up the cytoplasmic solution as a reaction to the cold can help water vitrify. Vitrification is a physical state of water that occurs when it freezes, but its cells don’t expand and realign — which leaves the plant cell in an unharmed state of suspended animation. This is how trees at the most extreme global latitudes attempt to handle the deep chill.

Blankets vs. Bark

As you can see, trees have it pretty rough in the winter, but luckily they have developed some pretty unique and interesting adaptations to help them make it until the warmth of spring arrives. Learning about all that trees have to go through every winter makes us appreciate our fireplaces and fuzzy blankets even more! Although the worst of Storm Jonas is over, make sure to layer it on before going outside, and look out for slippery ice on sidewalks. Maybe while you’re on your daily commute, also take a minute to check out the trees in your neighborhood and find out even more about their individual adaptations!

Forest Digest – Week of February 8, 2016

by American Forests

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

Champion Florida Royalpalm.

Champion Florida Royalpalm.

Escape to Alaska: Join Us in July for an Exclusive Adventure

by Ashlan Bonnell

By Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Communications Intern

Mount Denali

Mount Denali

American Forests invites you to join us on the trip of a lifetime to the wilderness of picturesque Denali National Park in Alaska. From July 2-7, we will be headed to Alaska’s most well-known national park for a magical week of relaxation and re-connecting with nature. After beginning our trip in Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, we will continue our journey into the heart of Denali National Park. What better way is there to celebrate Independence Day than to spend it in one of the most beautiful and pristine places in the United States? Not to mention the fact that there are more bald eagles found in Alaska than in any other state, with a population of about 30,000 birds.

Denali National Park was originally established in 1917 after naturalist Charles Sheldon spent nine years lobbying for legislation to create the park. Not only is Denali the first national park to be created in Alaska, it was also the first national park created explicitly to protect wildlife. Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the park’s sprawling 6 million acres of wilderness to catch glimpses of the abundance of wildlife that call Denali home. Ranging from mammals, such as bears, Dall sheep and caribou, to the more than 160 species of birds that call the park home during the summer months, Denali remains unrivaled as the best destination for seeing such diverse wildlife. The park also claims the tallest mountain in North America — Mount Denali stands at an impressive 20,320 feet and was also formerly known as Mount McKinley.

While in Denali we will be staying right at nature’s doorstep, at the remote Kantishna Road House. Here, you will be sure to find peace and serenity, taking in the sights and sounds of nature while participating in activities such as morning hikes or afternoon bike rides through the park. On our morning hikes, we will get the full experience of the Denali wilderness and are sure to come across wildlife that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world, the Dall sheep.

On our last day in the park, we have the unique opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful spots in the heart of Denali: Wonder Lake. Wonder Lake was created by retreating glaciers and offers visitors stunning views of Mount Denali and the Alaska Range. It’s also frequented by wildlife such as waterfowl and the occasional moose. Here, we will canoe across its waters and take in the views before returning to the lodge for cocktails.

With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder why Denali is called the Crown Jewel of the North. In the coming weeks, keep on the lookout for more posts about the native flora and fauna of Denali, as well as more information on one of the trip’s activities we’re most looking forward to: an incredible glass train ride from Denali back to Anchorage.

Sound exciting? Join us on this exclusive adventure by registering online!

Meet Our New Manager of Individual Giving

by American Forests

Ellie ParrishEllie Parrish recently came to American Forests as our new manager of individual giving. We’re excited for the enthusiasm, new ideas and helpful spirit she’s bringing to the position and the organization — and we think you should be excited, too! From her favorite tree to why she wanted to work in conservation, read more about Ellie.

  • Why did you choose to go into conservation?
    The outdoors have always been a big part of my life. My dad was a forester at Pennypack Park in Pennsylvania when I was a child, and he took us to forests all over the country and explained their importance. Today, he runs a tree farm outside of Lynchburg, Virginia, which we work on together. An interest in nature has always run in the family. I received a degree in Urban Planning, which studies the built environment; looking at how the built environment affects the natural environment was always one of my favorite topics. Being able to apply that interest to my career is the most exciting part of working at American Forests.
  • What aspects of American Forests’ work are you most excited to be a part of?
    I really enjoy looking up trees in the National Big Tree program. It’s amazing that a piece of American Forests’ work has been around, and continuously growing, for such a long time. I also look forward to the Global ReLeaf projects that American Forests will be a part of in 2016.
  • What do you think are the most significant challenges facing forests today?
    I think invasive species are one of the top concerns for not only forests but also a variety of ecosystems. I am very thankful that there are a growing number of initiatives addressing not only controlling invasive species, but also in educating all of us in being mindful of the species we introduce into gardens, public parks and rivers.
  • Do you have a favorite story from your years in the field?
    I worked at a small nursery in Richmond, VA before I moved to D.C. I greatly enjoyed engaging with customers about trees around Richmond, especially a large Dawn Redwood growing on the nursery property, old trees lining Monument Avenue and the growth around the James River. The growing community effort towards keeping the riparian area around the James River maintained is remarkable.
  • What is your favorite tree and why?
    The southern magnolia holds a special place in my heart. They were all over the place near my Grandmother’s home, and they’re a reminder of summers spent with my family.

Forest Digest – Week of February 1, 2016

by American Forests

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

What Role Do Forests Play in the Campaign Issues of Leading Presidential Candidates?

by American Forests

By Keelin Arseneault, Policy Intern

Forest with lake and mountains

Credit: Chuck Fazio, Artist-in-Residence.

Following the recent Iowa Caucus and with the presidential election drawing nearer, staying updated on the candidates’ viewpoints is essential to being well informed. At American Forests, we work to emphasize the significance of forests and their role in the health of the planet. Here, we examine some of the leading candidates’ campaigns, regarding their perspectives on the management of public lands, climate change and the economy, to consider how forests could be involved in these plans to improve our country’s wellbeing.

Leading Democratic Candidates

The two frontrunners for the Democratic Party nominee are former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT). Both candidates have formulated in-depth plans that could benefit our forests.

Ms. Clinton has demonstrated her support for making an effort to curtail climate change overall, while also acting to specifically protect America’s public lands. For example, as the senator from New York, she was part of a bipartisan coalition to defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge against oil drilling. An important goal found in Clinton’s climate change plan is to “Renew our shared commitment to the conservation of our disappearing lands, waters, and wildlife, to the preservation of our history and culture, and to expanding access to the outdoors for all Americans.” Forests are part of these disappearing lands. They act as a vital source of clean water and habitat for wildlife, both topics which this goal mentions. This general objective to protect our environment overall is outlined effectively, but could also refer to forests as a crucial aspect of the environment in need of protection due to their major contribution to the quality of our public lands.

Senator Sanders has also shown his concern regarding climate change and taken action against it. Recently, he co-sponsored the Keep It in the Ground Act to prohibit future fossil fuel leases on public lands. In Sanders’ climate change plan, the Senator shapes a clear goal to protect public lands, including forests. According to his campaign, “Conservation of our public lands such as our National Parks and Forests are an American tradition and a vehicle for economic growth. Our conserved public land also serves an important role in not only preventing climate change but also in mitigating the catastrophic effects of climate change…” Senator Sanders points out that he understands the specific importance of the wellbeing of our national parks and forests to the health of the environment in which we live. The Senator has also made the commitment to ensure that Americans have access to both urban and rural green spaces. This goal is shared by American Forests as well, which is deeply involved in urban forest work to provide more green space in city environments through its programs, like Community ReLeaf.

Leading Republican Candidates

The frontrunners of the Iowa Caucus for the Republicans were Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), businessman Donald Trump and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). These candidates have not framed climate change as one of their main campaign issues, but there is room for the role of forests in their goals for the presidency as well.

Senator Cruz, Senator Rubio and Mr. Trump are all focused on the importance of a sturdy economy and creating jobs in America. Cruz’s campaign states, “Jobs, growth, and opportunity will reignite promise for millions of American families…”  A recently published report found that the combined value of outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation annually generates at least $1.7 trillion in economic activity, supports 12.8 million jobs and brings in $211 billion in tax revenue.[1] As the report notes, “this sector of the U.S. economy is larger than the U.S. auto and pharmaceutical industries combined.” Protecting and restoring our forests will ensure on-going economic and environmental viability for our communities. Forests and public land management are also a source of important jobs in America, and forests provide numerous other economic benefits such as clean water and green infrastructure, which protects our urban development, therefore, contributing to economic growth. The economic benefits of forests in America are truly worth considering.

The outcome of the presidential election may be uncertain for now, but something we can be certain of is the necessity of forests for the wellbeing of our people and planet. Learn more about the many benefits of forests here, and join American Forests in our mission to protect them.

[1] Southwick Associates, “The Combined Value of Outdoor Recreation, Natural Resource Conservation, and Historical Preservation, 2013,” April 8, 2013.

Why I’m Here: Shaping the Connection between Policy and Forests

by American Forests

By Keelin Arseneault, Policy Intern

Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.

Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.

Even though it’s the coldest time of year and the trees around us aren’t looking full and green, I am still excited to begin working at American Forests as a spring policy intern in 2016. I moved from New England to Washington, D.C. for the semester, and one might wonder how I ended up here at American Forests. To sum up the answer to that question in simplest form, I must refer to a quotation from the main character of a beloved Dr. Seuss children’s book, The Lorax, who famously said, “I speak for the trees.” To me, this allusion is a personal goal and means being a part of the voice that speaks for the forests because they truly cannot speak for themselves. Becoming involved and making a difference in this mission of not only working to protect and restore forests, but also inspiring others to be part of the voice on their behalf, is what I hope to help accomplish as an intern at American Forests.

I grew up in a small farm town in New Hampshire, and this beautiful state is truly where my passion for nature began. With teeming forests full of evergreen and red maple trees surrounding me, I have always felt most at home in the woods, breathing in the pristine air and listening to birds chirping to see how many I can identify just by sound. I was the type of child who preferred climbing any tree I could manage rather than watching television. School field trips to local conservation areas were always my favorite, and traveling north to see the majestic White Mountains and Flume Gorge was an experience that made me feel genuinely connected with the environment around me. All of these factors contributing to my love of nature motivated me to study conservation biology.

It is through my collegiate studies that I learned about the in-depth science behind the threats of climate change and how significantly they impact life on Earth. The concepts sounded so grim that I began wondering if there was any positive light to be shed on the subject. During lectures on deforestation or the endangerment to our native orchids, I would start imagining the world without trees and forests. What would my home be without the beauty of trees, the birds singing cheerily in their forest homes, the irreplaceable landmarks we visit and the overall tranquility that comes from appreciating our planet’s natural wonders? For me, home would simply not be home anymore.

I am fascinated by the biological effects of climate change, but as those lectures continued to grow bleaker, I started feeling an itch to do more than just sit there listening to the dismal prospects. I wanted to do something to change them, and from this moment on, I realized it was time for me to focus more on environmental policy.

Through my biology classes, I quickly learned that forests were not only an incredible resource for those seeking a place to feel peaceful, but also for the health of our planet. I gained knowledge about the scientific research behind the many benefits forests provide, but wanted to get more involved in the policy process of actually ensuring their survival. This is why I sought out the opportunity to intern at American Forests. I am looking forward to learning more about the crucial connection between the health of forests and the policies that help protect and restore them. I hope to learn extensively about the conservation of rural wildland forests, some of them far away from the center of federal policy in Washington, D.C.

My journey has led me to intern at American Forests, and this is how I was inspired to join the amazing mission here. I hope to contribute as much as I can to speaking for the forests across our country, and if you want this path to be a part of your story, too, I encourage you to sit outside among the trees, even for a few moments, and be inspired to take action.

Forest Digest – Week of January 25, 2016

by American Forests
George Washington National Forest

A proposed pipeline would have cleared a swath through George Washington (pictured above) and Monongahela national forests. Photo credit: Aneta Kaluzna.

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