Go Green: 2016 Green New Year’s Resolutions

by Ashlan Bonnell

As 2016 kicks it into gear, many are setting resolutions for the new year — to be healthier, to spend more time disconnected from technology or to travel more, just to name a few. So, we thought it would be fun to see what people are resolving to do this year in efforts to help our environment. Here’s a few of our favorites, shared by our Facebook friends!

1. Recycle, recycle, recycle!
Recycling is one of the easiest ways to help out the environment. For those of you who already recycle, consider ways you can take it a step further, or perhaps consider taking on composting. But, for those who currently don’t recycle, it’s not hard to start! Even if you begin with baby steps — plastic bottles, cardboard boxes or cartons, yesterday’s newspaper — you will be making a difference!

recycled glass bottles

2. Diversify your backyard or garden.
Many don’t realize that conservation efforts can start right in your own backyard. If done properly, your landscaping can boost biodiversity. The key? Selecting native plant species. With an eye toward the ecosystem, you can find the perfect combination of native species that are both aesthetically please and beneficial!

native plant nursery

Native plant nursery. Credit: Tom Potterfield.

3. Clean up our forests.
Forests are all around us, and we LOVE to enjoy them. From national forests to those in our backyards, they provide recreation, relaxation and, not to mention, they’re beautiful to look at. But, unfortunately, people litter… a lot! So, make a resolution to pick up any trash you see when you’re in the forest. Or, consider planning a “clean up” day and make it into a community event!


4. Plant more trees!
Yes, we know this is going to sound cliché coming from American Forests…but, there is a reason we do what we do! Trees provide so many benefits to the environment, and the earth is constantly losing them. So, it’s up to all of us to make sure that our forests are restored, enabling them to provide benefits to our planet at their full potential.


Okay, I know what you’re going to say: “no one keeps resolutions past February.” But, come on! Have a little faith. We know you can do it! Maybe you have other resolutions you’re making this year to protect our forests? Please share them with us! Comment and tell us how you’re making a commitment to our planet this year.

Into The Woods

by Christopher Horn

“You can smell the forest from here.”

My younger brother Chad, who was visiting me in San Francisco from San Diego, and I were were still winding along California Highway 1 about a mile or so from the entrance to Muir Woods National Monument when I commented on the fragrance wafting around the natural treasure we were about to see.

Despite being in the forestry field for more than five years, never in my handful of trips to San Francisco have I visited Muir Woods. So, when I was in the Bay Area in November for work, I made sure to set aside a day to visit the park and take as many photos as I could.

Christopher Horn at entrance to Muir Woods National Monument.

At the entrance to Muir Woods, rocking my American Forests t-shirt!

Upon walking through the entrance sign, the dramatic hues of green and crisp coastal air enveloped us. Though there were quite a few other people at the park that day, the trails were serene, and we rarely crossed paths with other visitors. Muir Woods seemed like our own arboreal playground.

Chad and I hardly spoke to each other as we walked. I was focused on simply observing the park’s natural wonders — from the surprisingly tiny cones of the coast redwood to the color of the bark that is the species’ namesake. It brought back fond memories of my childhood science classes, while the impressive height of the trees made my neck ache from looking up so much, a feeling I had on my first visit to Midtown Manhattan.

Pathway in Muir Woods showing the human-to-tree scale in the forest.

The groves of coast redwoods dwarfed my brother Chad as we walked along the Muir Woods trails.

Christopher Horn's National Parks Passport stamps from Muir Woods National Monument.

The first stamps in my National Parks Passport. Here’s to finding my park in 2016!

It’s astonishing that old-growth redwood forests, like those in Muir Woods, constitute only a fraction — less than 200,000 acres — of what was once vast coast redwood forestland along the coast of California and southern Oregon, a native range that could sustain 1.6 million acres of redwoods.

I am also happy to say that I finally got my National Parks Passport on this trip — my good friend Liz will be pleased to hear! — and with this year being the National Park Service’s centennial, I’m going to make an effort in 2016 to visit as many national parks, monuments, historic sites, etc., as I possibly can. You should #FindYourPark, too!

See all the photos from my trip below, including a lovely sunset I documented near the Golden Gate Bridge!

Happy New Year!

by Ashlan Bonnell

Wishing you happiness, prosperity and

joy this new year!

From everyone at American Forests

Winter landscape

Credit: Chuck Fazio

8 Creative Ways to Recycle, or Reuse, Your Christmas Tree

by American Forests

By Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Marketing and Communications Intern

There’s so much more that can be done with your Christmas tree besides throwing it away! From festive decorations to functional garden helpers, here are a few tips on how to make the most of your Christmas tree this year.

1Living Bird Feeder
A whole Christmas tree makes an excellent bird feeder for your backyard. Stick the tree in the ground or leave it in its stand. A wide variety of birds will be attracted by suet, cranberry and popcorn strings, stale bread and dried, chopped fruit in mesh bags. If you grow sunflower seeds, simply hang the whole sunflower head on the tree. Your family will discover that chickadees, song sparrows, cardinals and a host of other birds come for the food and stay for the shelter.

Christmas tree bird feeder

Credit: Urban Sea Star via Flickr

2Home and Garden Decor
Cut off all the branches and use the trunk to edge a garden. The trunk can also be strategically placed in your garden as a resting spot for birds, squirrels and other little critters. You can also use the cut-off branches as decorations throughout your home.

Christmas tree decor

Credit: Poppet with a camera via Flickr

3Mold-Free Mulch
Since pine needles dry quickly and decompose slowly, you can use them as moisture- and mold-free mulch in your garden. Many communities throughout the country have tree-recycling programs, in which trees are collected from residents and then chopped up to be used as mulch for plants in community parks and gardens. You can find out about your local tree-recycling program by calling city hall.

Christmas tree mulch

Credit: Philip Bump via Flickr

4Relax by the Fire
The trunk can be sawed into logs and burned in your fireplace. Just make sure to not burn the branches, since they can send off sparks!


Credit: Riccardo Cuppini via Flickr

5Smell Like Christmas Year-Round
You can make a DIY air freshener by crushing up the pine needles and putting it into a bowl of potpourri or into sachets.

Pine needles

Credit: Meg Hourihan via Flickr

6Sippin’ on Tea
Another use for your pine needles is to make them into tea. It’s as easy as steeping pine needles in boiling water, and then straining it into cups to drink.


Credit: snap713 via Flickr

7Wooden Coasters
Use the stump of your tree to make wooden coasters! Saw your tree stump into 1/3- or ½-inch-thick disks.


Credit: Craftybridge

8Feed Your Garden
If you still have your Christmas tree out in the yard when warm weather appears, there’s still a use for it. Burn the branches, which contain soil-enriching nutrients and minerals, and spread ashes in your garden.


Credit: RediRock International via Flickr

Happy Holidays!

by American Forests

Wishing you warmth & good tidings for

the holidays, and throughout the year.

From everyone at American Forests

Happy Holidays

Photo Credit: Chuck Fazio

GR25: Planting Our First Global ReLeaf Tree in 1990

by Megan Higgs
Kirtlands warbler

Kirtland’s warbler

Welcome to the simultaneous finish line and starting line, Global ReLeaf enthusiasts! Indeed, this week’s journey — the final of a 25-year endeavor — takes us all the way back to our very first Global ReLeaf project. Before Global ReLeaf blossomed into the successful restoration effort it is today (50 million trees and counting!), our restoration work started with 23,000 tiny, humble trees to protect one small bird: the Kirtland’s Warbler.

The 1990s quiet planting in AuSable State Forest provided thousands of jack pine seedlings to ensure survival of the then-endangered bird. While small, Kirtland’s warblers are very particular when it comes to space and their habitat of choice. Indeed, the birds have very rigid habitat requirements for nesting: a breeding pair typically requires a whopping 6 to10 acres of nesting territory and prefer to nest in areas with more than 80 acres of jack pine coverage. In addition, this land is limited typically within the confines of the lower peninsula of Michigan. They are a bit ageist with their tree preferences, as well — the birds will only begin to nest in the jack pine stands when the trees reach 5 feet tall — about 5 to 8 years of age — and will only inhabit the trees until the jack pine reaches about 16 to20 years of age, when the lower limbs that the warblers like to call home begin dying off.

However, fire suppression, invasives and habitat loss wreaked havoc on this little bird. By 1951, the Kirtland’s warbler population was low enough that only 500 singing males were accounted for. These near-extinction numbers granted the bird a federal endangered listing in 1967, and left many perplexed on how to protect the warbler.

In fact, beyond habitat loss and fire suppression (as jack pines require fire to fully release their seeds), another force threatened the fragile warbler: the brown-headed cowbird. The cowbirds survived by following bison herds, evolving a strategy of nest parasitism in order to thrive along their wandering route. And, their target when the warbler was most vulnerable? Kirtland’s warbler chicks.  Cowbirds would lay their eggs in warbler nests, often removing the host’s eggs and causing the baby cowbirds’ new warbler foster parents to unknowingly use valuable resources and careful care to raise the bigger, more competitive cowbird chicks.

Luckily, the Kirtland’s warbler has become one of our favorite success stories, so this story does have a happy ending!

American Forests recognized the immense threats to the warblers and began teaming up with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service to plant our first young jack pine stand for future warbler habitat. This effort has now culminated into American Forests and our partners planting more than 1.7 million jack pine trees across 2,000 acres in a short 25 years. In addition, cowbird control measures have ensured the Kirtland’s warbler can continue to thrive in their new habitat. And, the numbers show that these efforts have worked: by 2011, the number of singing Kirtland’s warbler males had risen to 1,828 individuals, effectively helping the bird to avoid its near-extinction status.

The resurgence of the Kirtland’s warbler paints a picture of success after years of collaboration, careful problem-solving and action to restore a threatened bird — and ecosystem. The story of the Kirtland’s warbler is one that we often use as motivation at American Forests, as it showcases the incredible power that forests can have in reversing dangerous trends. There are more challenges to face in the coming 25 years: human population growth, habitat loss and climate change, to name a few. Global ReLeaf has tackled these challenges in the past, and American Forests will no doubt continue to address these issues in the next 25 years, as now — more than ever — forests will be crucial for all of us to protect and restore.

Forest Digest – Week of December 14, 2015

by American Forests

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

Forest and river

Credit: Chuck Fazio

New COP21 Climate Agreement Provides Progress, Values Role of Forests

by American Forests

By Etienne Laffargue, Policy Intern

Looking up at trees

Credit: Chuck Fazio

“This is truly a historic moment,” said ban-Ki-moon regarding last Saturday, when negotiators of 195 nations agreed to a deal aiming to keep average temperature increases “well below 2 degrees Celsius,” in an effort to avoid catastrophic consequences of climate change. The Secretary General of the United Nations applauded the deal for being the first of its kind concerning climate change, referring to it as “one of the most crucial problems on Earth.”

Agreement Provides Positive Progress

The results of 13 days of intense negotiations in the suburb of Paris are promising. The deal brokered seeks to dramatically reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, and, for the first time, both developing and developed nations are expected to cut emissions. The deal is a framework aimed at keeping average temperature rise “well below” the 2 degrees Celsius threshold, above which scientist predict strong and dangerous weather disturbances. It also expresses the ambition of restricting temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, past which we could witness the disappearance of low-lying islands.

The core of the deal is made of non-binding individual national pledges to reduce emissions. It was the United States that pushed for non-binding rather than binding targets. This approach may seem counter intuitive, but previous agreements largely failed due to their restrictive nature. As political scientist David Victor, from University of California – San Diego, points out, the newfound flexibility is exactly what is needed to build an increasing impactful agreement. This voluntary basis reflects a bottom-up approach where each nation can decide the rate of its cuts in emissions. What is legally binding is that countries must ratchet up their targets every five years and are subject to a transparency mechanism called “monitoring, reporting and verification.” That means, they must submit reports on emissions and emission cuts using a universal accounting system to be reviewed by expert panels. This is extremely positive because it provides a much needed framework for the civil society and the international community to pressure for stronger emission cuts regularly.

While current pledges will only keep temperature rise below 2.7-3.5 degrees Celsius, it is encouraging to see that so many countries have agreed to make pledges, to have their progress monitored and to make stronger pledges regularly. In striking this agreement, governments have made clear their intention to mitigate climate change and have taken the important first step of cooperation, which can only gather momentum as trust continues to be built between parties.

Forests’ Role in Combating Climate Change

The agreement indicates the role forests play in climate mitigation. It encourages parties to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, recognizes the role of conservation and sustainable management of forests and suggests using result-based payments for forest protection. Though the text on forests is succinct, American Forests will keep pushing for smart policy that protects forests and will continue implementing reforestation programs throughout the world so our trees remain valuable carbon sinks.

It is up to all of us to face the climate challenge with determination. This deal established a basis for the work to come, and now, our country must do its part to keep climate change to a minimum. We, at American Forests, are optimistic about the opportunities offered by this deal and hope that you will join us in our steady effort to raise awareness about the importance of forests in climate change mitigation.

GR25: Planting along the Anacostia in 1991

by Megan Higgs
Sunset over the Anacostia River

Sunset over the Anacostia River. Credit: Joseph Gruber via Flickr.

Welcome back, ReLeaf enthusiasts! While it’s been a long road and we’re entering the home stretch, this week’s journey certainly isn’t too far from home for us here at American Forests. In fact, we’re venturing just across D.C. borders to replant with our northern neighbor, Maryland, at the Anacostia River Park!

During this 1991 venture, we partnered with the Prince George’s Departments of Environmental Resources and Public Works, Maryland Forest Park and Wildlife Services, Maryland National Capital Parks and more to plant more than 760 trees within 1,000 feet of the tidal waters of the Anacostia River, which flows from Prince George’s County, through D.C. and into the Potomac River. If there was any river that needed the help, the Anacostia is a worthy contender. Undoubtedly, the Anacostia is both ecologically and historically valuable: John Smith once recorded in his journal that he sailed up the “Eastern Branch” of the river in 1608 while searching for the Potomac, lending it to be called the “Eastern Branch of the Potomac River” in primitive U.S. maps.

In addition to the historical significance of the river’s ties with John Smith and the native Anacostan tribe, the waterway provides crucial habitat source for dozens of species — including Great Egret, Eastern Red-backed Salamander, White perch, Blackburnian warbler, Greater yellowlegs and more.

Despite the waterway’s heritage and refuge for wildlife, rampant pollution and deforestation of areas flanking the river have given it an undesirable name in the last several hundred years — D.C.’s “Forgotten River.” Raw sewage from antiquated sewer systems has spewed billions of gallons of pollution into the river. Coupled with deforestation — approximately 70 percent of the original forest coverage around the river has been removed — and we have a massive problem on our hands.

However, efforts have been made to help clean the river in the last two decades or so — and American Forests is proud to have been part of that effort. By planting more than 760 trees directly by the river, we helped provide additional wildlife habitat and provided an area of buffer for the river, as trees are excellent pollution interceptors and natural filters. In addition, pump station rehabilitation, stormwater management and the Bandalong Litter Trap have all been implemented since our planting to further remove floatable litter, urban runoff, sewage and other contaminants from the river.

Undoubtedly, there’s still work to be done to help the Anacostia. That’s why now — 24 years and nearly 1,000 restoration projects later — we’re still replanting in our own backyard with Anacostia watershed tributaries. In fact, we partnered with the Anacostia Watershed Society and Alcoa Foundation just this year to plant 110 trees along Wells Run, a tributary of the Anacostia. Such efforts will further reduce stormwater volume and contaminant levels, helping to return the Anacostia to more habitable, swimmable and cleaner conditions.

Forest Digest – Week of December 7, 2015

by American Forests

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