American Forests staff members after planting trees in Washington, D.C.

American Forests staff members after planting trees in Washington, D.C. Credit: American Forests

It’s been a big year. In 2012, for the first time ever, American Forests updated the National Register of Big Trees twice. We published the findings of a year-long study on urban forests and continued our work on reforestation projects around the world. This year, Hurricane Sandy warned us of the reality of climate change, and our country voted to give President Obama a second term. So what else happened in 2012? Let’s take a look at some more important moments — technological developments, scientific discoveries, policy decisions and everything in between.

January 1, 2012 – American Forests kicks off the New Year with four recommended resolutions for 2012: plant some trees, take care of your trees, educate yourself and get outdoors!

January 9, 2012NASA Earth Observatory releases a series of maps depicting the world’s forests, as mapped from three dimensions: area, density and height. They’re some of the largest, highest-resolution forest biomass maps ever!

January 18, 2012 – Despite its size and adaptive abilities, the Amazon is considerably unstable and — in some places — changing drastically, according to a study published in Nature.

February 8, 2012Tierra Resources, a small environmental consulting firm, and Louisiana State University scientists have developed a new environmental tool that measures and quantifies the amount of carbon plants absorb as they grow and how much carbon is stored in the plants throughout their lifecycle. In September, this methodology is approved by the American Carbon Registry.

February 13, 2012: Director of Forest Restoration Jesse Buff visits Bellingham, Wash., to see the results of some earlier Global ReLeaf work as well as some currently underway. At Squalicum Creek, where American Forests supported a riparian restoration project in the late 1990s, he finds a heavily shaded stream supporting a healthy riparian forest and, thus, a thriving salmon population. At Landingstrip Creek, American Forests is currently partnering with Alcoa Foundation on a similar project, planting trees on 128 acres of a former dairy farm surrounding the creek.

Credit: CNN/Alex Wong/Getty Images

February 15, 2012 – American Forests helps distribute the Green Budget, a report that highlights the environmental and conservation communities’ Fiscal Year 2013 national funding priorities, to congressional offices. Budget priorities include wildlife habitat restoration and clean energy investment.

March 8, 2012American Forests submits comments on the National Fish, Wildlife & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, suggesting a more comprehensive approach to habitat conservation and a consideration of how different ecosystems work together and are interconnected.

March 21, 2012 – A research team led by Clinton Francis of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center finds that industrial noise can literally transform a landscape. Industrial noise causes changes in behavior for all animals in an area, including birds and insects, which causes the distribution of plant species throughout the area to change as well.

March 29, 2012 – A new study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology uses data from 35 years of the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count to find the rate at which certain bird species are adjusting to rising temperatures. For the most part, birds’ ranges are moving north, but some species can’t keep up.

Virginia Tech's Stadium Woods

A satellite view of the Virginia Tech campus, showing Lane Stadium the lower left with Stadium Woods running along the right of the image. The area outlined in orange is the site proposed for the new practice facility. Credit: Google Maps

April 2, 2012Two trees that were thought to be extinct are rediscovered in Africa! Erythrina Schliebenii and Karomia gigas were both found in a coastal forest in southeastern Tanzania.

April 9, 2012 – The IKEA Plant A Tree program, in partnership with American Forests, announces the planting of its two millionth tree! Trees from this program have been planted in many forests across America, including the following sites: the McNally Fire restoration project in California, the Warm Fire Restoration project in Arizona, and throughout the Lower Rio Grande in Texas.

April 12, 2012 – The battle over the 15-acre wooded area adjacent to Virginia Tech’s football stadium, known as Stadium Woods, rages on. The survival of this old-growth forest is threatened by a proposed $25 million indoor practice facility. Visit the Friends of Stadium Woods website to sign a petition in support of keeping Stadium Woods, and check out our Loose Leaf post about the topic.

April 13, 2012 Director of the Urban Forests Program Melinda Housholder meets with TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, a group whose goal is to plant 20,000 trees in the Pittsburgh region by the end of 2012. American Forests is partnering with Alcoa Foundation to fund the planting of 6,800 of these trees and is also working with TreeVitalize to use scientific measures to assess the benefits of their urban forests.

April 27, 2012 – American Forests releases the spring 2012 National Register of Big Trees, recognizing more than 90 new champions!

May 2, 2012A study released in the online science journal PLoS ONE reveals the extent of big trees’ impact on their ecosystems. It turns out that trees account for roughly 50 percent of a forest area’s biomass.

May 14, 2012A new study released by the University of Washington – Seattle reveals that within 100 years, about 90 percent of mammals will have lost their native habitat range due to climate change. The Center for Biological Diversity’s report, released around this same time, however, reports that 90 percent of species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act are recovering at their predicted rate.

May 15, 2012 – American Rivers releases its 2012 list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers with the Potomac River on top. The Potomac also receives a “D” letter grade from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Sciences for the second year in a row. The health of this river is closely tied to the health of surrounding green areas and wildlife that rely on the river’s water.

Potomac River. Credit: Mr. T in DC/Flickr

June 6, 2012 – With the unveiling of Google’s 40-pound, backpack-style Street View Trekker, Google Street View gets taken to a whole new level. It’s already been tested on ski slopes and in various national parks and is well on its way to sharing even more of the world’s beauty with the world’s people.

June 18, 2012 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces a proposal to protect 38 Hawaiian species (35 plants and 3 snails) under the Endangered Species Act, making Hawaii the U.S. state with the highest number of federally listed and candidate species.

June 26, 2012 – Forests were sadly left off the list of major areas to discuss during the official meeting and negotiations of the Rio+20 United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development. The final document that emerged from Rio+20 employs vaguely encouraging language and is disappointing to some, but many individuals come away from the conference ready and eager to discuss what it actually happening on the ground in the face of myriad environment challenges.

July 2, 2012 – According to the National Climatic Data Center, June 2011-May 2012 was the warmest 12-month period in the U.S. since recordkeeping began more than a century ago, yet a new poll released in The Washington Post-Stanford University reveals that Americans’ top environmental concern is no longer climate change. Instead, the top concerns are water and air pollution.

July 19, 2012American Forests’ Jami Westerhold visits Cody, Wyoming with Science Advisory Board member Dr. Diana Tomback to observe research on natural regeneration of whitebark pines. American Forests has had many restoration projects over the years to help restore whiteback pine ecosystems and will continue to work on this serious threat through our Endangered Western Forests program.

July 23, 2012The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program Coalition, of which American Forests is a founding member, announces the success of a number of projects designed to minimize the destruction wrought by wildfires. For the second year in a row, reports show that this U.S. Forest Service program finds preemptive thinning and controlled burns to be cost-effective ways to address wildfire.

Wood thrush, a migratory songbird. Credit: Kelly Colgan Azar/Flickr

July 25, 2012 – Dr. Bridget Stuchbury, professor of biology at York University, and colleagues publish a study in the journal PLoS ONE that details the migratory patterns of individual songbirds, revealing that individual birds depart for North America each spring within the same three-day window. This punctuality is both awe-inspiring and impressive, but may not bode well for these birds in the future, as their food sources will begin peaking at different times.

July 30, 2012A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that it is less costly to prevent a ton of carbon emissions by limiting mangrove deforestation than it is to reduce carbon emissions through greenhouse gas regulation in developing countries. We’ve long recognized the importance of mangrove forests by doing reforestation work for them and discussing them in our magazine and on Loose Leaf.

August 14, 2012 – The Appalachian Trail celebrates its 75th birthday.

August 17, 2012 – Michigan State University assistant professor of zoology Pam Rasmussen authors a paper revealing that two owls long thought to be simple species of Ninox hawk-owls are actually species in their own right.

August 29, 2012 Rokform®, a CES Design Award honoree, announces a new partnership with American Forests to plant one tree through our Global ReLeaf program for every Rokbed™ and Roklock™ case sold now through July 31, 2013! Partnerships like these enable Global ReLeaf to involve individuals, organizations, agencies and corporations in tree planting projects that restore local and global ecosystems.

Gray wolf. Credit: Diane Hammond/Flickr

August 31, 2012The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces that Wyoming’s population of gray wolves has recovered enough to be removed from the protection of the Endangered Species Act, but some are concerned that the delisting might adversely affect the species long-term recovery.

September 19, 2012 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service unveil a historic agreement between the two agencies: a new partnership project called Working Lands for Wildlife, which will take action to improve the habitats of seven high-priority, at-risk and vulnerable game species.

September 20, 2012 – The International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Zoological Society of London releases a new list of the 100 most critically endangered species, many of which — not surprisingly — are forest dwellers.

October 1, 2012 American Forests and Scotties Facial Tissues’ Trees Rock video contest begins! This program is aimed at educating elementary students, schools and PTA groups on why forests and trees are important to all of us.

October 5, 2012 – American Forests releases the fall 2012 National Register of Big Trees, recognizing more than 780 of the biggest trees of their species throughout the country!

October 18, 2012 – The Clean Water Act (CWA) celebrates its 40th anniversary! In the last four decades, it’s made significant headway in the fight against water pollution, but there’s still a long way to go. Visit our Action Center and sign a pre-written letter about the CWA and its necessary improvements that will be sent to the heads of the EPA and USDA.

October 25, 2012American Forests’ innovative reforestation project in southern California’s Cuyamaca Rancho State Park achieves “registered” status from the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and can now issue Carbon Reduction Tons to California’s emerging carbon market. Check out this Loose Leaf post if you need a refresher on CAR and carbon offset programs.

November 6, 2012 – President Obama is elected to a second term. For the next four years, American Forests will continue to advocate for several programs and bills that benefit our nation’s forests. See a more detailed discussion of these efforts in this Loose Leaf post.

Lake Park in Milwaukee. Credit: Julia Taylor/Flickr

November 13, 2012 The Energy Conscious, a rapidly growing e-marketplace for energy efficient and sustainable products, launched its “Plant-a-Tree” initiative, pledging to donate a tree through our Global ReLeaf program every time a customer purchases $100 or more of its efficient, renewable and sustainable products!

November 16, 2012 – American Forests releases the results of a year-long project in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry program! Visit our newly launched Urban Forest Program area to read some of the case studies and discover how urban forests are making a difference.


So much has happened this year, but it’s not over yet. We look forward to seeing what the final weeks of 2012 hold, as well as what’s in store for 2013 as we continue to protect and restore our trees and forests!