American Forests is a 501(c)(3) non-profit conservation organization, established in 1875, and dedicated to protecting and restoring healthy forest ecosystems. The current headquarters are in Washington, D.C.
The mission of American Forests is to "protect and restore forests, helping to preserve the health of our planet for the benefit of its inhabitants," in short, to "grow a healthier world." American Forests' activities comprise five separate program areas: Global ReLeaf forest restoration, Public Policy, Big Trees, Urban Forests and Disaster ReLeaf.
American Forests’ National Big Tree Program is a conservation movement to locate, appreciate and protect the biggest tree species in the United States. More than 750 champions are crowned each year and documented in its biannual publication — the National Register of Big Trees.
For more than 70 years, the goal of the National Big Tree Program has remained: to preserve and promote the iconic stature of these living monarchs and to educate people about the key role that these remarkable trees and forests play in sustaining a healthy environment.
To date, American Forests has planted more than 43 million trees worldwide. The membership organization publishes a quarterly magazine, "American Forests"
The organization also works to advocate for the protection and restoration of rural and urban forests through public policy, and engage members of a community in the management of their natural resources through various community coalitions.
What began as an association of professional foresters, now has a membership of individuals who care about trees and forests: environmentalists, recreational enthusiasts and tree lovers.
American Forests was established in September 1875 as the American Forestry Association (AFA) by physician and horticulturist John Aston Warder and a group of like-minded citizens in Chicago. The object of the organization was to collect and disseminate information on forestry and to foster the conservation of the existing forests. In 1882, the AFA was merged into the American Forestry Congress, which became at once nationally influential in promoting the cause of forestry. In 1889 the original name was resumed.
During the early years of its existence, the AFA relied on annual reports, occasional bulletins, and the general press for the publication of information about forestry. In 1897 it took over from the New Jersey Forestry Association the publication of the periodical The Forester, changing the title later to Forestry and Irrigation, Conservation, and, finally, American Forestry. By 1920, the AFA had about 10,000 members, and was very active and influential in educating public sentiment and in shaping forestry legislation.
The AFA was long active in the conservation movement, advocating for the creation of forest reserves, for passage of the Weeks Act, and for creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1924, the AFA started what would be come a national tradition by donating the first living national Christmas tree to the White House.
In 1940, the AFA began maintaining the National Register of Big Trees, a list of the largest trees of each native and naturalized species in the United States. Candidates for the National Register are nominated by coordinators, big-tree hunters and volunteers across the U.S. in what has become an annual competition between individuals, counties, and even states to hold the most champion trees.
In 1990, the AFA created the Global ReLeaf program, which plants trees to restore forested ecosystems across the U.S. and around the world. Currently more than 40 million trees have been planted through this program.
In 1992, the AFA changed its name to American Forests to better reflect its environmental efforts.
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