Jan Ames Santerre enjoys long-distance running and spending time with her two toddler boys, especially if it involves being outdoors. She also enjoys being the state coordinator of Maine’s Big Tree Program, a position she has held for the last 11 years.

Maine’s Register of Big Trees recognizes the biggest native and naturalized tree species in the state. Jan says that she likes “the look on people’s faces when you bring them to a state champion tree. Big trees capture people’s imaginations through their size, beauty, and the stories they tell.” Some of her favorite stories include trees being planted by a ship captain to make his southern bride feel at home and a European linden in Phippsburg, Maine, that is said to have been planted in 1774.

Jan Ames Santerre and Debra Hopkins

Jan Ames Santerre (left) and Yarmouth Tree Warden Debra Hopkins in front of the felled American elm Herbie. Courtesy of Jan Ames Santerre

One of her highlights with the Maine’s Register of Big Trees has been the effort to memorialize New England’s largest American elm, “Herbie,” located in the Town of Yarmouth. Unfortunately, in January 2010, Herbie had to be removed due to systemic infection of Dutch elm disease, but that didn’t stop the town from forming a committee to work on reusing the wood from the tree. This initiative has developed into the Yarmouth Tree Trust, an organization that accepts proceeds to fund planting of new street trees within the community.

Jan is impressed by the large, majestic trees in the state, including Maine’s biggest tree — a Silver maple in Leeds, with a total of 424 points. Maine currently boasts three national champions on American Forests’ 2011 National Register of Big Trees. They are the bigtooth aspen in Appleton, a yellow birch in Kennebec, and a black spruce in Hancock. (To view the national champions in Maine, visit the 2011 National Register of Big Trees.)

Although Jan does not have any national champions under her name, she still keeps an eye out for them and encourages others to nominate possible contenders. When asked about the future of Maine’s program, Santerre says, “Maine’s Big Tree program was started in 1958, [and] we aim to continue into perpetuity. I hope to produce a commemorative or anniversary edition of the register some point, with stories of individual trees and their stewards, along with professional photographs.”

Maine’s Register of Big Trees is part of Project Canopy, a cooperative effort of the Maine Forest Service and the Pine Tree State Arboretum. To learn more about Maine’s Big Tree Program and how to nominate a tree, please visit http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/projectcanopy/pages/resource/bigtrees.htm.

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