|Washington, D.C.- The holidays are full of many old and much-loved traditions, but few people realize that one of our most special traditions – the lighting of a living National Christmas Tree – began out of concern for deforestation, as well as a celebration of living trees, says AMERICAN FORESTS, the nation’s oldest conservation group.The living National Christmas Tree, which will be lit today by President Barack Obama, is part of a tradition that began with a gift from AMERICAN FORESTS,, known then as the American Forestry Association. Before Christmas tree farms were established to provide for the holiday in a sustainable way, people cut trees from the wild, often to the detriment of forests. By transplanting a large living tree for the White House to decorate and showcase, AMERICAN FORESTS hoped to promote tree and forest conservation, and a sustainable celebration of one of the nation’s favorite holidays. President and Mrs. Coolidge received the gift of a living 35-foot Norway spruce that was planted near the White House on Sherman Plaza in 1924. This was the first living National Christmas TreeThe Coolidge’s began the National Christmas Tree tradition the year before with a cut tree, a 48-foot Balsam fir, donated by Middlebury College in the President’s home state of Vermont. Today’s centerpiece is a Colorado blue spruce that was planted on the Ellipse in 1978.A more recent holiday tradition from AMERICAN FORESTS is the gift of planting trees for friends and loved ones. These trees, planted by our community partners, provide homes for endangered wildlife, restore forests ravaged by wildfire, improve communities, and provide clean air and water. Since AMERICAN FORESTS’ first Global ReLeaf forest was planted in Northern Michigan twenty years ago, 35 million trees have been planted for environmental restoration in 640 projects in the U.S. and 80 countries. The gift of trees during the holidays – and for birthdays, special occasions and as memorials – is an important part of this tradition.One tree is planted for each dollar donated for tree planting gift ordersthrough AMERICAN FORESTS’ website, or by phone to 800/545-8733 (during business hours, M-F, 9-5, Eastern). Gift orders of $50 or more placed will also receive a 2011 Every Tree Tells A Story calendar while supplies last.With headquarters in Washington just blocks from the National Christmas Tree and online at www.americanforests.org, AMERICAN FORESTS has been a leader in protecting and restoring forests since 1875.