Justin Hynicka recently came to American Forests as our new manager of forest conservation. We’re excited for the experience, knowledge and new ideas he is bringing to the position and the organization — and we think you should be excited, too! From why he’s looking forward to helping further the American Forests’ mission to his favorite story from the field, read more about Justin.
- Why did you choose to go into conservation?
I chose a career in forest conservation because of my love for the outdoors. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the mountains throughout the continental United States, and as a recreational user of these areas, I felt compelled to help protect and restore them. I also studied ecosystem science as an undergraduate and graduate student. Forests are such interesting and beautiful places, and the more I learn about them the more excited I am to be working on their behalf.
- What aspects of American Forests’ work are you most excited to be a part of?
I’m most excited to build partnerships with regional and local experts and forest advocates, to continue learning about the wide variety of forest ecosystem types around the world and how they function and, ultimately, contribute to their restoration, management and protection.
- What do you think are the most significant challenges facing forests today?
Although deforestation is an ever present threat, maintaining forest health is a significant challenge due to the introduction of exotic pests, disease and climate change, among other factors. Fortunately, the decisions and investments we make in forest restoration and management today will have lasting benefits for future generations of people and wildlife.
- Do you have a favorite story from your years in the field?
So far, my favorite trip in the field was a seven-day backpacking trip with a college friend in the Wind River Range, Wyo. It is quite the slog to the high-elevation lakes, but once you get there the scenery is spectacular. The lakes are cold, crystal clear and full of brook trout that were originally dropped into the lakes by plane during the 1920s and ‘30s to improve recreational fishing. Moose are abundant, and we saw several either crossing streams or gorging on herbaceous plants in wetlands. The highlight was camping near the Cirque of the Towers, which is a collection of sheer granite mountain peaks. The low point of the trip was a dead car battery (overhead light left on by yours truly) upon our return.
- What is your favorite tree and why?
I have a few, but if I can only choose one, it has to be the American larch / tamarack (Larix laricina). It is unique because it is a deciduous conifer, which means that it has cones and needle-like leaves, like Christmas trees, but it has to regrow its leaves every year. When the leaves die in the fall, they turn bright yellow, and the new leaves in the spring are neon green. Also, who doesn’t love the circular pattern that the leaves grow in? The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness in eastern Oregon is a great place to see the American larch. A very close second is the shagbark hickory (Carya ovata).