It’s been quite a year. In 2013, American Forests planted our 45 millionth tree, released our list of 10 best U.S. cities for urban forests and launched new reforestation projects and new urban forest programs. For our nation’s forests, it was a year of highs and lows, with a brutal fire season made more intense by climate change. As we prepare for a new year, we take a look back at some highlights of 2013.

The Ultimate Big Tree, Missouri’s Ozark chinkapin

The Ultimate Big Tree, Missouri’s Ozark chinkapin Credit: American Forests

January 15

American Forests and Scotties Facial Tissue announced the top 12 national finalists in the Scotties “TREES ROCK!” Video Contest. Kids who entered the contest were required to create a video up to three minutes in length on the importance of trees to themselves, their school and community. Watch the videos and stay tuned for the 2014 finalists!

February 5

American Forests released our list of the 10 best U.S. cities for urban forests. Through a combination of in-depth surveys and findings by a blue-ribbon panel of experts, the cities chosen were:  Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Did your city make the list?

March 19

Inspired by March Madness, American Forests conducted our first-ever online Big Tree Madness competition. Fans named the Ozark chinkapin of Barry County, Mo., the winner, or “Ultimate Big Tree.” The tree has a large fan base and is part of American Forests Big Tree Program, which is active in all 50 states and names more than 750 champion trees each year, in order to identify and conserve big trees.

Chips, now wary of humans, growls at the camera shortly before her release.

Chips, now wary of humans, growls at the camera shortly before her release. (Photo courtesy Robert Campbell, volunteer and rehabilitation worker, Sierra Wildlife Rescue)

April 19

We were all relieved to hear that Chips, the orphaned bobcat kitten who was rescued by workers after losing her mother and suffering injuries in the Chips Fire in California’s Plumas National Forests, was finally released back into the wild after recovering and learning some on-the-ground survival techniques.

April 26

American Forests published our online Tree Protection Toolkit. The process of protecting or saving a tree is a worthwhile investment of time, and it’s why American Forests developed these steps to help you during this endeavor.

American Forests supporters explore Central Park’s North Woods.

American Forests supporters explore Central Park’s North Woods. Credit: American Forests

May 18

Sixteen New Yorkers came out to walk in the North Woods of Central Park, marking the first American Forests Walkabout. The idea is to inspire people to get out in their own urban or wilderness forests and learn more about them. Watch for future walkabouts at www.americanforests.org/events.

June 10

At the Association Media & Publishing’s 33rd annual EXCEL Awards Gala, American Forests received a Gold Award and an EXTRA! Award for our Urban Forests Case Studies: Challenges, Potential and Success in a Dozen Cities.

Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots climb the national co-champion alligator juniper, which they saved from the Doce Fire

Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots climb the national co-champion alligator juniper, which they saved from the Doce Fire. Credit: docefire azpnf/Flickr

June 25

Climate change is causing increased catastrophic wildfires, outbreak of pests and diseases and extensive droughts all impacting the health of our forests. In a major climate address in June, President Obama called for prioritizing and expanding forest restoration efforts to combat these threats, a move which American Forests welcomed.

June 30

The American Forests family mourned the loss of the brave members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew, who lost their lives while combating Arizona’s Yarnell Hill Fire, just weeks after members of the same Hotshots crew had succeeded in their efforts to save a champion tree in Prescott National Forest.

July 2

A study about conifers revealed some dark news: While coniferous forests take three times more carbon out of the air than temperate or tropical forests, 34 percent of these important trees are threatened with extinction.

July 12

Smokey Bear turned 69 this year, and started giving bear hugs to those who prevent forest fires — a light-hearted departure from his traditionally stern ways.

Adult Asian longhorned beetles.

Adult Asian longhorned beetles. Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

August

Throughout the month of August, American Forests joined the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the U.S. Forest Service and the Nature Conservancy to encourage participation in Tree Check Month to look for the Asian Longhorn Beetle, which is killing tens of thousands of trees in a number of states.

September 6

A new study in Science showed that protecting just 17 percent of the world’s land can preserve 67 percent of its species.

September 28

We put our first tree in the ground as part of our new Community ReLeaf program! The first city we planted in with partner Bank of America was Asbury Park, N.J. Our multi-month assessment of the tree canopy in Asbury Park had revealed that the city had gained more than 35 acres of tree cover since 2002, which is equivalent to 28 regulation-size football fields.  Throughout October and November we went on to plant in Detroit, Mich., Atlanta, Ga., Nashville, Tenn., and Pasadena, Calif. More cities will join them as we continue Community ReLeaf in 2014.

Monarch on milkweed.

Monarch on milkweed. Credit: s3728/Flickr

November

This year’s monarch butterfly migration sets an unwelcome record: Only 3 million butterflies had been seen in their winter home as of November, compared to last year’s 60 million, which was itself a low number. American Forests has been working for nearly a decade in the monarchs’ winter home of Michoacán, Mexico, and this news inspires us to keep spreading the word. In Feburary, we’re heading down to Michoacán with some American Forests supporters to take a look at the butterflies for ourselves.

December 6

President Obama lit the National Christmas Tree in front of cheerful crowds in a festive celebration on the 90th year since the first National Christmas Tree—and the 89th year since American Forests helped make the National Christmas Tree a living tree planted on the Ellipse south of the White House.

The New Year will soon be here and we’re looking forward to seeing what 2014 will bring as we continue — with your help — our mission to protect and restore our trees and forests!