Have you ever been interested in who it is working behind the scenes to advance conservation and restoration with American Forests? We’d like to share with you what Earth Day means to some of us here at American Forests, and why we think this important day needs to be recognized. We asked our staff a number of questions — about the environment, about their childhood memories of nature, and of Earth Day itself, and this is what they had to say.

Scott Steen, President & CEO

Scott is fascinated by the origins of Earth Day. “I loved learning about the history of how Earth Day came into being,” he shares. “The first Earth Day in 1970 brought together Republicans and Democrats, young and old, urban and rural, and rich and poor in a rare moment of common understanding of what was being lost and how quickly we were losing it. At that moment in our history as a nation, the desire to create a safe and healthy environment for our children transcended ideology. People saw protecting wilderness and wildlife habitat as a part of both preserving our heritage and providing a legacy for future generations. As a result, the movement that grew out of that first Earth Day had a significant impact on the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.”

Ellie Parrish, Manager of Development

Lea Sloan, Vice President of Communications

Lea is known at American Forests for having a deep appreciation for the natural history imbued in our surroundings, and also for the incomparable value to be found in our wildernesses. “It’s easy to take our most vital resource for granted,” she begins, “when we’re able to breathe clean air, drink clean water and access nourishing food grown in healthy soil. Earth day is a celebration of those essentials but also a reminder that we need to defend it — from being overrun by human population, unchecked development and industrialization that collectively all threaten to choke the integrity of the elements that all life depends on.”

Forest restoration is something Lea truly breathes 24/7, day in and day out. “I have planted many trees, including a dozen or so in our own backyard that I have had the opportunity to witness grow. It makes me feel good to set those roots into the ground — I feel renewed afterwards, like I’ve been meditating or swimming in a wild or beautiful place. It also is a bit like extending one’s own mortality by giving life to something that could outlive you by 100 — or 500 years…”

Maverick Ryan, Policy Intern

Lindsey Huerter, Director of Corporate Giving

Earth Day brings up childhood memories for Lindsey, who told us about a particularly charming one involving her mother. “One of my favorite memories of planting began early in my childhood,” she says. “My mom had shown me a picture of what the lilac bush we were putting in the ground would look like in the future. I was sorely disappointed when what she brought home to plant appeared nothing like the image I had seen. She explained to me how this plant would need my love and nurturing to blossom. Over the next few years I went through the motions of caring for the plant, impatiently waiting for the purple flowers I was promised. The moment the plant bloomed was that much more special because of the attention I had given it. I think this is a lesson we can all remind ourselves of during Earth Month. The more we care for the earth, the more we will appreciate its beauty.”

Doyle Irvin, Communications Intern

Ian Leahy, Director of Urban Forests

Ian is pretty hardcore, when it comes to Earth Day. “I have mixed feelings about Earth Day,” he begins. “Whenever we designate a time to celebrate some entity, it’s often a sign something has gone horribly wrong at some point. I’ve been to Earth Day celebrations where paper plates were strewn across the field afterwards, bottled water was distributed with abandon and the most people were encouraged to do was wear green. So, clearly there’s still a lot of work left to do! I look forward to living the cliché, ‘every day is Earth Day!’”

It’s not all grim for Ian, though. A few years back, while directing a Community ReLeaf planting, the local volunteers nicknamed him “John Henry” from all the hammering he did, staking the ground to support the young saplings being planted. “On a recent trip, I revisited the site,” Ian says. “I saw kids walking home from school, having fun, playing in the green space alongside the trail (and trying to recover a basketball they’d accidentally thrown into the adjacent canal). It felt good to see. A successful urban forest melds seamlessly into the everyday lives of the residents.”

Christopher Horn, Director of Communications

Lindsey Miller-Voss, Social Media Manager