By Keelin Arseneault, Policy Intern

Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.
Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.

Even though it’s the coldest time of year and the trees around us aren’t looking full and green, I am still excited to begin working at American Forests as a spring policy intern in 2016. I moved from New England to Washington, D.C. for the semester, and one might wonder how I ended up here at American Forests. To sum up the answer to that question in simplest form, I must refer to a quotation from the main character of a beloved Dr. Seuss children’s book, The Lorax, who famously said, “I speak for the trees.” To me, this allusion is a personal goal and means being a part of the voice that speaks for the forests because they truly cannot speak for themselves. Becoming involved and making a difference in this mission of not only working to protect and restore forests, but also inspiring others to be part of the voice on their behalf, is what I hope to help accomplish as an intern at American Forests.

I grew up in a small farm town in New Hampshire, and this beautiful state is truly where my passion for nature began. With teeming forests full of evergreen and red maple trees surrounding me, I have always felt most at home in the woods, breathing in the pristine air and listening to birds chirping to see how many I can identify just by sound. I was the type of child who preferred climbing any tree I could manage rather than watching television. School field trips to local conservation areas were always my favorite, and traveling north to see the majestic White Mountains and Flume Gorge was an experience that made me feel genuinely connected with the environment around me. All of these factors contributing to my love of nature motivated me to study conservation biology.

It is through my collegiate studies that I learned about the in-depth science behind the threats of climate change and how significantly they impact life on Earth. The concepts sounded so grim that I began wondering if there was any positive light to be shed on the subject. During lectures on deforestation or the endangerment to our native orchids, I would start imagining the world without trees and forests. What would my home be without the beauty of trees, the birds singing cheerily in their forest homes, the irreplaceable landmarks we visit and the overall tranquility that comes from appreciating our planet’s natural wonders? For me, home would simply not be home anymore.

I am fascinated by the biological effects of climate change, but as those lectures continued to grow bleaker, I started feeling an itch to do more than just sit there listening to the dismal prospects. I wanted to do something to change them, and from this moment on, I realized it was time for me to focus more on environmental policy.

Through my biology classes, I quickly learned that forests were not only an incredible resource for those seeking a place to feel peaceful, but also for the health of our planet. I gained knowledge about the scientific research behind the many benefits forests provide, but wanted to get more involved in the policy process of actually ensuring their survival. This is why I sought out the opportunity to intern at American Forests. I am looking forward to learning more about the crucial connection between the health of forests and the policies that help protect and restore them. I hope to learn extensively about the conservation of rural wildland forests, some of them far away from the center of federal policy in Washington, D.C.

My journey has led me to intern at American Forests, and this is how I was inspired to join the amazing mission here. I hope to contribute as much as I can to speaking for the forests across our country, and if you want this path to be a part of your story, too, I encourage you to sit outside among the trees, even for a few moments, and be inspired to take action.