2011, aka the International Year of Forests, was a big year for us here at American Forests. Shocking, yes? Some of our highlights for the year included planting 4.7 million trees and recognizing 90 new national champion trees. We re-launched our website, redesigned our logo, created a blog and appointed a new Science Advisory Board. Yes, it was indeed quite a year. We’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane to remember the biggest, most interesting and most unusual stories from world of forests over the past year. Come along!

January 1, 2011The International Year of Forests kicks off!

January 6, 2011 – The USDA Forest Service publishes a new “Forests on the Edge” report, “Threats to At-Risk Species in America’s Private Forests.” This report reveals the troublesome fact that more than 4,600 native animals and plant species are at risk of decline or extinction in America’s private forests. The U.S.’s private forests provide habitat for 60 percent of all at-risk species.

Toomer's Corner oak trees, Auburn University, February 25, 2011. Credit: Merelymere/Flickr

January 27, 2011 – A caller to Paul Finebaum’s radio show claims to have poisoned Auburn’s famed Toomer’s Corner oak trees in retaliation for the outcome of the 2010 Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl football game and other rivalry grievances. In February, officials would confirm that the oaks were poisoned and unlikely to survive. Auburn University is closely monitoring the trees and providing monthly updates on their status, which as of this fall, is still grim.

February 2, 2011Noted environmentalist Along Sega dies. Sega, a Borneo tribesman, was jailed twice for his efforts to save his people’s ancestral lands from deforestation. He mentored Swiss activist Bruno Manser, whose fund continues the fight to save Malaysia’s rainforests.

February 14, 2011Conservationists announce that the Mexican monarch butterfly population doubled in size that winter after the previous year’s devastatingly low numbers. North America’s monarchs only winter in select forests of Mexico and California, needing oyamel firs to stay warm and alive. Eight months later, experts would be fearful for the monarchs once again, as Texas’ severe drought could impact the butterflies’ safe return to their Mexican winter habitat.

February 16, 2011England’s government does an about-face regarding its plans to sell 258,000 hectares of state-owned woodland. After environment secretary Caroline Spelman’s October 2010 announcement that the country’s forests and woodlands might be sold to landowners, developers, companies, etc., Tory supporters, environmentalists and Socialist Workers party members banded together to change the government’s mind. Four months later, they were successful.

February 24, 2011The Philippines’ Camarines Sur province sets a world record. In one hour, 64,096 trees were planted!

North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest. Credit: Gary Peeples/USFWS

March 1, 2011America celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Weeks Act becoming law. This little law allowed the government to purchase private property to create national forests — the first of which would be North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, created in 1916. Definitely an anniversary worth celebrating.

March 21, 2011A report by the Pew Environmental Group reveals that Canada’s boreal forest contains more fresh water than any other place on Earth. The report also states that the boreal’s value is estimated at $700 billion annually because of the buffer it provides against climate change and food and water shortages.

March 23, 2011 – A hundred years ago, The New York Times declared that “All Chestnut Trees Here Are Doomed!” For the next century, that headline proved prophetic with the American chestnut almost vanishing due to a blight. Now, though, American chestnuts are returning to New York City, as blight-resistant nuts will be planted at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

April 14, 2011 – America’s forests in the lower 48 states sequester 40 percent of our country’s fossil fuel carbon emissions, according to a new report published in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.

April 22, 2011 – It’s the 41st Earth Day! The next day, American Forests and partner Lowe’s would give away a million trees in celebration!

April 26, 2011American Forests plants its five millionth tree with partner Chegg at a special U.S. Department of Education planting ceremony, which also recognized the agency’s 31st anniversary.

May 4, 2011The U.S. Department of Interior announces that one in four bird species living in the U.S. are imperiled or in decline. At least half of America’s bird species live off publicly owned lands, meaning if we take care of and restore forest habitats on our public lands, our birds would be very chirpy!

May 18, 2011A Southern Forest Futures Project report says that up to 23 million acres of southern forests could be threatened in the next 50 years thanks to development, climate change and invasive species.

Tison wildfire on Sabine National Wildlife Reserve in Louisiana, May 2011. Credit: USFWS/Southeast

June 15, 2011 – Fire season is raging, and so far it’s a record-setting year for the blazes, hitting the Southwest especially hard. By December, more than 66,000 wildland fires would burn more than 8.2 million acres. That makes 2011 the 4th worst fire season since 1960 in terms of acreage lost.

June 29, 2011 – Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino National Forests’ endangered species score a court victory: a U.S. District Court judge orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Forest Service to “take all necessary measures” to protect California’s threatened species, insisting the agencies form better plans for protecting the wildlife from human activities.

July 1, 2011American Forests new website launches! And the 2011 National Register of Big Trees launches. Big tree lovers rejoice! American Forests’ dedicated, forest-loving staff can finally get a good night of sleep!

July 6, 2011 – What poses the biggest risk to American forests? Bugs, according to a new USDA Forest Service report. From 1998-2002, 12 million acres in the lower 48 states met their demise thanks to crawly critters. From 2003-2007, that number would triple to 37 million acres. And the problem may only increase, as climate change causes bugs to migrate to areas they never habited before.

Blister rust-infected whitebark pine. Credit: Rebecca Turner/American Forests

July 18, 2011Whitebark pines are officially endangered, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This declaration marks the first time a widespread tree species has been declared threatened because of threats posed by climate change. While conservation groups, including American Forests, and environmentalists applaud the move, the fight to save the whitebark pine is only beginning. Stay tuned in 2012 as we announce our myriad plans to save this keystone species and its forests.

July 31, 2011Yosemite National Park announces that it will be cutting down thousands of towering pines and cedars in order to enhance the park’s views?!? Why? Because the trees are blocking views of famous vistas, such as Yosemite Falls. It’s not a surprise to say that this decision remains controversial.

August 22, 2011 – Animals and plants are migrating across the globe. So says a study conducted by England’s University of York. Climate change has seen species shifting away from the equator and into higher altitudes by the miles over the last few decades.

August 23, 2011A report in Nature Geoscience reveals that forests and water are linked through the eons. More than 330 million years ago, trees helped form the rivers and floodplains we know today.

September 8, 2011 – Chemical manufacturer DuPont offers compensation for trees killed by its new herbicide. Imprelis hit the market — the professional lawn care market — in spring 2011 as an alternative to existing weedkillers and was viewed favorably because of its lower toxicity. That view changed when trees started dying, and in August, the company pulled Imprelis from the market and the EPA banned it. Now, DuPont is offering monetary compensation to remove damaged trees and care for the replacements.

September 18, 2011 – Do trees falling in a forest make a sound? Yes, they do, according to researchers at Crater Lake National Park.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) inducts Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize-laureate and green advocate Wangari Maathai (left) as a UN Messenger of Peace in December 2009. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

September 25, 2011 – Nobel laureate and founder of Africa’s Green Belt Movement Wangari Maathai dies. The Kenyan environmentalist’s Green Belt Movement planted trees across Kenya as a way to improve local livelihoods, empower women and address an array of environmental concerns, such as erosion and deforestation.

October 1, 2011IKEA gives away seedlings at all of its U.S. stores to celebrate its efforts with American Forests that have resulted in 1.9 million trees being planted across America.

October 5, 2011Mattel announces that it will stop using paper products from Asia Pulp and Paper because of its link to illegal logging in Indonesia. Mattel’s toys, including its famous Barbie brand, are packaged in Indonesia, which has one of the rapidest deforestation rates in the world.

October 14, 2011 – American Forests launches its new blog, Loose Leaf, which features daily updates on the latest and greatest news from the forest world.

October 21, 2011The Clinton-era Roadless Rule is back. The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates the rule that prevents road building or commercial timber harvesting on the 49 million acres of roadless forests and grasslands across the country.

October 26, 2011 – American Forests establishes its new Science Advisory Board. Some of the country’s most respected earth and social scientists will be advising our policies, projects and programs in the years to come.

November 1, 2011 – Back in August, a study revealed that animals and plants are migrating faster than ever before, but in a study released today by Duke University and the USDA Forest Service, our forests aren’t moving fast enough to outrun climate change. Only 21 percent of our forests are migrating northward.

November 7, 2011 – The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program announces that in its first year it’s created 1,550 jobs, improved 66,000 acres of wildlife habitat and removed fuel for destructive mega-fires from 90,000 acres, among other accomplishments. American Forests is proud to be part of this program.

Grizzly bear in Girdwood, Alaska. Credit: Princess-Lodges/Flickr

November 22, 2011Grizzly bears go back on the endangered species list due to the fact that whitebark pine, one of their primary food sources, is threatened.

November 28, 2011 – COP17 Durban, or the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, kicks off in Durban, South Africa. The main item under discussion: the Kyoto Protocol.

December 4, 2011 – A pair of Swiss climate modelers publish a study in Nature Geoscience claiming that 75 percent of climate change is due to human activity. Global surface temperature has increased by more than 0.5 degree Celsius since 1950.

What news do the remaining weeks of 2011 hold for our forests? We’ll discuss the answer to that question day by day, but here’s to 2012 and another year of fighting the good fight to protect and restore America’s forestlands!