Located in Washington, DC, American Forests was founded in 1875, during the early days of the American conservation movement, to encourage forest management . Originally called the American Forestry Association, the organization was renamed in the later part of the twentieth century. The group is dedicated to promoting the wise and careful use of all natural resources , including soil , water, and wildlife , and it emphasizes the social and cultural importance of these resources as well as their economic value.
Although benefiting from increasing national and international concern about the environment , American Forests takes a balanced view on preservation, and it has worked to set a standard for the responsible harvesting and marketing of forest products. American Forests sponsors the Trees for People program, which is designed to help meet the national demand for wood and paper products by increasing the productivity of private woodlands. It provides educational and technical information to individual forest owners, as well as making recommendations to legislators and policymakers in Washington.
To draw attention to the greenhouse effect , American Forests inaugurated their Global ReLeaf program in October 1988. Global ReLeaf is what American Forests calls "a tree-planting crusade." The message is, "Plant a tree, cool the globe," and Global ReLeaf has organized a national campaign, challenging Americans to plant millions of trees. American Forests has gained the support of government agencies and local conservation groups for this program, as well as many businesses, including such Fortune-500 companies as Texaco, McDonald's, and Ralston-Purina. The goal of the project is to plant 20 million trees by 2002. In August of 2001, there had been 19 million trees planted. Global ReLeaf also launched a cooperative effort with the American Farmland Trust called Farm ReLeaf, and it has also participated in the campaign to preserve Walden Woods in Massachusetts. In 1991 American Forests brought Global ReLeaf to Eastern Europe, running a workshop in Budapest, Hungary, for environmental activists from many former communist countries.
American Forests has been extensively involved in the controversy over the preservation of old-growth forests in the American Northwest. They have been working with environmentalists and representatives of the timber industry, and consistent with the history of the organization, American Forests is committed to a compromise that both sides can accept: "If we have to choose between preservation and destruction of old-growth forests as our only options, neither choice will work." American Forests supports an approach to forestry known as New Forestry, where the priority is no longer the quantity of wood or the number of board feet that can be removed from a site, but the vitality of the ecosystem the timber industry leaves behind. The organization advocates the establishment of an Old Growth Reserve in the Pacific Northwest, which would be managed by the principles of New Forestry under the supervision of a Scientific Advisory Committee.
American Forests publishes the National Registry of Big Trees, which celebrated its sixtieth anniversary in 2000. The registry is designed to encourage the appreciation of trees, and it includes such trees as the recently fallen Dyerville Giant, a redwood tree in California; the General Sherman, a giant sequoia in Texas; and the Wye Oak in Maryland. The group also publishes American Forests,a bimonthly magazine, and Resource Hotline, a biweekly newsletter, as well as Urban Forests: The Magazine of Community Trees. It presents the Annual Distinguished Service Award, the John Aston Warder Medal, and the William B. Greeley Award, among others. American Forests has over 35,000 members, a staff of 21, and a budget of $2,725,000.
[Douglas Smith ]