THE THREATS to America’s forests were different 139 years ago than they are today. But the same need still exists — to bring the great minds in forestry together to talk about how to ensure all people, for many generations, can benefit from forests.
Back then, in 1882, they came together in Cincinnati to talk about how to better manage and govern forests. The discussion was essential, given that the lack of knowledge related to both issues was why our forests were in jeopardy. The venue was the first American Forest Congress, hosted by the American Forestry Association (now known as American Forests).
In fall of 2022, people will come together for the next forest-themed congress to talk about a new set of problems — such as wildfires, pests and diseases — that are mostly the result of climate change. They’ll also discuss trees as a pathway to advancing social equity in cities.
Just as all seven congresses held to date have been structured to embrace the current forest issues of the day, a unique lens has been applied to each one. At the last congress, held in 1974 the focus was welcoming in people — such as owners of small tracts of forest land, leaders from community-based forestry groups and Native Americans — who had not typically attended these events. At the 2022 congress, a female lens will be applied to all of the discussions. The event will be led by women and aptly called the Women’s Forest Congress.
Each of the congresses, all led or co-led by American Forests, have resulted in groundbreaking solutions for our forests. For example, they have informed the creation of the United States Forest Service, the network of national forests that now span nearly 190 million acres and the Civilian Conservation Corps (whose employees helped plant 3 billion trees). We are hopeful that the next congress will lead to similar policies and programs that help shape the quickly growing movement to reforest America.