Denver, CO (Dec. 10, 2020) – National TV series for public television America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell returns to Colorado to celebrate
a very merry U.S. Capitol Christmas. The new episode will premiere on Rocky Mountain PBS and rmpbs.org on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 8:00 p.m. MT and shines a light on the 50 year tradition in which the USDA Forest Service provides a tree for the West Lawn
of the U.S. Capitol Building during the holidays. The 2020 tree is provided by the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) on
the Western Slope of Colorado.
Chuck Leavell may be best known as the keyboardist and musical director for The Rolling Stones, but he is also an educated and enthusiastic forestry advocate, conservationist and tree farmer. As host of the series, Leavell serves as the on-camera guide, travelling across the country to interview people who are passionate about the gifts we receive from our forests.
“The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is a mechanism for the nation to come together during this magical time of year and to celebrate one of our most treasured resources”, said Leavell. “Whether for building or for recreation, our forests are good for the economy and for the spirit.”
During this special episode, Leavell travels to the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests to follow the journey – from selection and cutting to ornament making and community celebrations – of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree as it makes its way from Colorado to Washington, D.C. Leavell also learns about the multiple uses of this winter wonderland by sharing adventures and hearing from staff from the USDA Forest Service.
The series is produced by Choose Outdoors and 42 Degrees North Media and the special episode is made possible with generous support from the USDA Forest Service, STIHL Inc. and Red Wing Shoes.
“The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, or “People’s Tree”, is a time honored tradition that brings hope and joy to people across the country”, said Bruce Ward, president of Choose Outdoors. “We are proud to help tell this very special story during a year when the world needs it more than ever.”
Following the Dec. 17 premiere on Rocky Mountain PBS and rmpbs.org, the episode will be available for viewing online at americasforestswithchuckleavell.com. Follow along on Facebook (@americasforests), Instagram (@americasforestswithchuck) and Twitter (@americasforests)
*Photos and a :30 promo video available online here. Please credit Markus Van Meter for photography use.
Press release - Delta, Colorado, October 28, 2020– After over a year of planning, the time has come to harvest the 2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree — a 55’ tall and 25’ wide Engelman Spruce — from the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests.
The virtual cutting ceremony will take place within the GMUG National Forests and will include brief remarks by USDA Forest Service leadership, local elected
officials and project partners. A livestream of the ceremony and cutting will be available on the GMUG National Forests Facebook page.
The cutting ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. MT. The tree will be cut using a STIHL MS 500i chainsaw and supported by cranes provided by Valley Cranes. The tree will be placed on a trailer provided by Hale Trailer before being transported off the forest by a Kenworth T680.
Once wrapped and secured, the tree will begin its journey to Washington, D.C., Nov. 10. The tree will visit 10 communities for a series of outdoor festivities hosted by local communities at fair grounds, schools, main streets, visitor centers, convention centers and retailers. Well-wishers will have a chance to take photos, sign banners on the sides of the truck, learn more about the GMUG National Forests and the great state of Colorado and more. Festivities are free and open to the public.
Safety of tour staff, event attendees and the tree are the top priority. Face coverings are required for all events and social distancing will be maintained. Along the way, we ask the public to be aware of the truck’s blind spots, wide turning radius, and longer stopping distances on the road so we can all arrive safely to our destinations.
*Subject to change. Monitor website at www.uscapitolchristmastree.com for the latest updates. Follow along online at and @uscapitolchristmastree on Facebook and Instagram.
Press release - Madison, WI (Oct. 9, 2020) – National TV program America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell travels to Wisconsin in the latest episodes of the multi-part series. Using the Wisconsin episodes as inspiration, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin will host a virtual premiere event on Wednesday, Oct. 21 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. CST. This online gathering will bring together thought leaders to engage in a rousing conversation on the critical importance and value of well managed public and private forest lands in Wisconsin.
Chuck Leavell may be best known as the keyboardist and musical director for The Rolling Stones, but he is also an educated and enthusiastic forestry advocate,
conservationist and tree farmer. As host of the new series, Leavell serves as the on-camera guide, travelling across the country to interview people
who are passionate about the gifts we get from our woods and exploring creative solutions to complex problems impacting this important natural resource.
“The search for solutions to the problems of sustainable growth, climate change and energy conservation is increasingly inspiring thought leaders to look at one of America’s finest resources -- our forests,” said Leavell. “Whether for building or for recreation, our forests are good for the economy and for the spirit.”
In this two-part TV special, Leavell explores the forests of Wisconsin, fittingly on a Harley Davidson. Part one finds Leavell exploring Wisconsin’s Northwoods, taking viewers on a journey through Minocqua and Paul Bunyan country, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest alongside US Forest Service Job Corps members, Tomahawk for an up-close look at ruffed grouse, and the Menominee Tribal land for a lesson in sustainable forestry practiced for many generations.
In part two, Leavell heads to the southern half of the state to experience the urban wood movement in Milwaukee, behind-the-scenes at the nation’s premiere wood research facility, the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, in Madison, the biodiversity of the Baraboo Hills via kayak on the Wisconsin River and hiking through an oak forest, and wrapping the Wisconsin adventure at a boisterous event in Suamico, Log-A-Load for Kids, where hundreds of kids from several elementary schools get to try their hands at being foresters for the day.
During the Oct. 21 virtual premiere event, Leavell will be joined by Tony Ferguson, Director of the Forest Products Laboratory for the USDA Forest Service, Heather Berklund, Deputy Forestry Division Administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Buddy Huffaker of the Aldo Leopold Foundation and Henry Schienebeck, Executive Director of Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association. The event will be moderated by James Edward Mills, journalist, media producer and Community Partnership Liaison, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, UW-Madison along with Adena Rissman, associate professor of the Human Dimensions of Ecosystem Management in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Registration for the virtual premier and screening of the episodes is available online here. Links to attend the virtual premier event and to view the episodes will be emailed to all who register.
“Public and private partners across the country are working hand-in-hand to both care for and create sustainable solutions using wood from our forests. This important work is vital to a healthy forest environment that provides world-class recreation, wildlife habitats and scenic beauty,” said Bruce Ward, president of Choose Outdoors. “Through the stories in the series and special events, we hope to educate and inspire citizens to become everyday champions.”
The series is produced by Choose Outdoors and 42 Degrees North Media and the Wisconsin episodes were made possible with support from the USDA Forest Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association, Wisconsin Sustainable Forestry Institute, Ponsse North America, John Deere (McCormick), Red Wing Shoes, The Nature Conservancy, Aldo Leopold Foundation, Ruffed Grouse Society, National Forest Foundation, Menominee Tribal Enterprises, Wisconsin Urban Wood, University of Wisconsin and Harley Davidson.
Visit americasforestswithchuckleavell.com to learn more and follow along on Facebook (@americasforests), Instagram (@americasforestswithchuck),and Twitter (@americasforests)
*Photos and short promo videos available at https://tinyurl.com/AFCLWIMedia. Please credit James Edward Mills for photography use.
Press release from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Greenville, SC
Garbe directed the program on air pollution and respiratory health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2004 to 2018 and is now a private consultant. The Endowment and the USDA Forest Service, Region 8 (Southern Region) office, commissioned the project. Both organizations seek to understand and clarify the benefits provided by forests.
“Forests provide many benefits and services, including wood for construction, fiber for paper and cardboard, energy, filtration for drinking water, climate regulation, habitat for wildlife, and recreation places,” said Carlton Owen, the Endowment’s CEO. “Now scientists are helping us understand how being in and near forests and trees can be good for our health and well-being. We hope this bibliography will stimulate interest in better understanding the human health benefits provided by trees and forests.”
Many of the studies focus on the air-quality impacts of trees and forests. One study suggests that nitrogen dioxide removed by trees in Portland, Oregon reduced respiratory problems. In contrast, another found no scientific consensus that urban trees reduce asthma by improving air quality and, in some circumstances, can degrade air quality and increase asthma. It issued a "call to action" for interdisciplinary research on the human health effects of spending time in or near green spaces. Other sources cited in the bibliography address mental health and well-being and crime reduction.
While Owen emphasized the importance of following CDC social distancing guidelines in a world shaken by COVID-19, he believes that "...recreation in forests is one of the most effective ways we can lower stress and anxiety, while at the same time enjoying a pleasant and positive experience.”
For more information contact:
Alicia Cramer, Senior Vice president, firstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) is a non-for-profit public charity working collaboratively with partners in the public and private sectors to advance systemic, transformative, and sustainable change for the health and vitality of the nation's working forests and forest-reliant communities.
On September 9th, laughs and foreign languages were heard from the top of Loveland Pass, 11,991′ above sea level. The group was full of high school students from across the world, from Peru to Germany, and Rotarians from the Denver-Metro area.
The Rocky Mountain Rotary Youth Exchange allows international students to partner with Rotarians in Denver and other cities across the U.S. to live with three seperate host families over a nine month period.
“Our daughter was involved with the program during her gap year between highschool and college,” explained one of the host couples. “She loved her experience in Chile, so we couldn’t wait to host a student from another country and give them the opportunity of seeing what high school is like for an American student.”
The hike on September 9th took place on the trail atop Loveland Pass and finished up on Rotary Peak. After the hike concluded, the group gathered on the Divide for lunch and conversation. The students might not have spoken the same language, but the smiles seen in the outdoors are universal. Learn more about the hike here:
Our Future Forests: Four Ways the Outdoor Recreation Community Can Help
By Bruce Ward and Brian Kelleghan
When wildfires devour our forests the entire outdoor recreation community suffers: hikers, hunters, anglers, kayakers, mountain bikers, four-wheelers, campers, snowmobilers, skiers, birdwatchers, mountain climbers, and even people who just like taking scenic drives. Severe droughts and the increasingly hotter and longer summers have led to more frequent and catastrophic wildfires. While efforts to safeguard our forests depend greatly on national and state policies, individuals can help protect our shared cathedrals of conifers and the surrounding natural environment most of us enjoy.
Here are four things you can do to help save the forests and watersheds that all of us in the outdoor recreation community love and cherish:
1. Advocate for increased funding for U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and their sister agencies so
they can reduce the number of catastrophic wildfires before they start. All these agencies have been grossly underfunded for years and likely will
remain so in this era of record federal deficits.
2.Educate yourself. Learn why our land management agencies must thin the forest – that is, remove dead wood and even live trees. Understand, too, when the agencies set controlled burns they are mimicking nature and the natural process to clear away overgrowth that ignite and feed huge wildfires.
3.Volunteer. The agencies need help restoring landscapes and watersheds after devastating wildfires occur. You can help plant trees, clear trails, and educate homeowners, campers, and other forest users about fire prevention and mitigation. Support organizations like the Boy and Girl Scouts who dedicate thousands of volunteer hours every year.
4. Support funding sources that help our forests. The National Forest Foundation’s Skier Conservation Fund provides millions of private sector dollars with matching federal funds to assist land managers working with volunteers. Lottery dollars can be directed to fund recreation and conservation efforts. Your philanthropic donations can be directed to the volunteer organizations that are helping get work done on the ground.
We in the outdoor recreation community – regardless of how we choose to enjoy the forests – are not helpless. We have a voice, we have votes. We need to take action.
Mr. Ward is the founder and President of Choose Outdoors, based in Denver and serves on Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Council and is chair of the Mile High Rotary Club Youth Services Committee
Mr. Kelleghan is the owner of Bison Designs, a Mountain View District and Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America and Vice Chair of Choose Outdoors.
This past June, the Choose Outdoors team partnered with the Denver Mile High Rotary to take 8 students on a trip to Estes Park, CO for a weekend full of camping, hiking, kayaking, and exploring.The weekend started on Saturday morning when the students piled up their things and made their way up to the Estes Park KOA.
The first day included a trip up to the top of Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road, which reaches a grand total of 12,183 feet high. The road, still covered in snow, brought gusts of wind that differed dramatically from the 80-degree weather down in town.
Next up, the group made their way down to the Cascade Falls Trail Head. The hike was roughly 2 miles, and included a spectacular view of the Rockies from the waterfall. The peaceful rocks perched on top of the waterfall made a perfect place to sit and enjoy a snack and soak up the view!
Afterward, the group made their way back to town to hang out at the KOA, and ended the night with a bonfire. The next morning, the group set out to the Estes Park Marina to end the trip canoeing on Lake Estes.
Even though some of these students have grown up Denver, few of the Interact students have ever had a chance to enjoy the mountains that surrounded them. Choose Outdoors and the Denver Mile High Rotary was honored to help support new experiences in the outdoors. Learn more about our summer camping trip in the video below:
This past weekend, the beloved and talented climber Jeff Lowe passed away in Fort Collins, CO at the age of 67. Jeff was known for always challenging the status quo, and pushing boundaries when it came to climbing. He was most known for his solo climb on the forbidden north face of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps. We want to thank Jeff Lowe for his contributions to the evolution of the outdoor industry, and his legacy that will live on.
Two years ago, we had the chance to speak with Jeff Lowe and his longtime partner, Connie Self, on the journey of becoming a climber and an influencer in the outdoor industry. Their motto? “Do the best you can, with what you’ve got, from where you are, right now.” Read more of their story in our original article here.
Check out Jeff and Connie’s film, “Metanoia.”
Choose Outdoors signs support letter for Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program extension
Choose Outdoors joined partners across industries in the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Coalition, sending a letter to the Farm Bill Conference Committee in support of extending the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. The letter appears in full below.
Dear Chairmen Roberts and Conaway and Ranking Members Stabenow and Peterson:
The undersigned organizations commend the House and Senate for highlighting the importance of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) by adding improvements to the program in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. We respectfully request the conference committee ensure an extension and increased authorized level of funding for CFLRP in the final Farm Bill.
Forests provide half our nation’s water, support millions of jobs, store carbon, produce timber, offer vast recreational opportunities, provide habitat to thousands of species, and generate billions of dollars in annual economic activity. Yet the health of our forests is in decline, with an area the size of Oregon in need of restoration on National Forest System lands alone (more than 80 million acres). Invasive pests and diseases, chronic drought, and increasingly expensive megafires jeopardize life and livelihood in rural and urban communities.
Overcoming these challenges requires an approach to federal forest management focused on large-scale, community-driven collaboration to increase the pace and scale of restoration, promote healthy forests, and protect the lives and well-being of communities and landowners. The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program is the Forest Service’s signature program that accomplishes these goals.
Since 2010, 23 CFLRP projects in 14 states have sold more than 2.5 billion board feet of timber; created $1.4 billion in local labor income; and improved 760 miles of trails for sports enthusiasts and recreation. CFLRP creates or maintains 5,400 jobs each year and has restored an area the size of Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks combined, all while deepening agency commitments to collaborative planning.
Extending CFLRP and increasing its authorized funding level will allow existing projects to complete implementation of their restoration plans, as well as allow for selection of new projects on forests in need of active management across the nation. With yet another extreme wildfire season confronting our national forests, firefighters, and communities, it is more imperative than ever that we maintain programs such as CFLRP to take a proactive and comprehensive approach to wildfire risk reduction and improved forest resilience.
We extend our appreciation to the Agriculture committee members and conference committee members from both chambers as they work to complete and pass a Farm Bill that will improve the health of our national forests for current and future generations. As the committee begins its work to reconcile these two bills, we urge you to extend this essential program through FY 2023 and increase the authorized funding level to $80 million annually in the final Farm Bill.
Download the PDF.
(As posted on KTVZ.COM.) WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), announced the introduction Friday of legislation that would reauthorize and expand the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.
According to a news release from Merkley's office, "This critical program, which helps fund collaborative and community-based forest management, has a proven track record of improving forest health, reducing wildfire risk, and supporting rural communities."
In addition to Merkley and Crapo, the legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch (R-ID), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jon Tester (D-MT).
“Collaborative strategies to manage our forests have proven to be a win on many levels: thinning overgrown forests and creating better timber stands, better ecosystems, better fire resistance, more jobs and more sawlogs to the mills,” said Merkley. “I’ve seen firsthand in the Deschutes National Forest the valuable progress that happens when the community works together to manage our forests for the good of everyone. It’s better for everyone when our resources go towards job creation and wildfire prevention, not lawsuits.”
“I have long supported active forest management practices as they play a vital role in reducing the risk of wildfires and fire suppression efforts,” said Crapo. “Collaborative practices provide Idaho’s stakeholders with the tools necessary to improve forest health, encourage the responsible stewardship of our public lands and foster resilient, rural economies. Ensuring long-term reauthorization of the CFLRP will promote Idaho’s forest health.”
“As a sponsor of the original legislation that established the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, I know just how instrumental these collaborative efforts are to promoting the health of our forests and supporting jobs in rural communities,” Wyden said.
“As an Oregonian, and as a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I’m all too familiar with the significant threat that unhealthy forests pose to western states. By encouraging collaboration among stakeholders at the federal, state and local levels, this program plays a critical role in reducing fire risk, maintaining our forests and empowering rural communities in Oregon and across the country to tackle these challenges head on.”
“The collaborative model is vital in Idaho and has proven to help reduce the fuel load for wildfires, among other positive benefits for our communities,” said Risch. “Renewing this program is another necessary step toward bringing a wide array of interests together to create jobs in increased forest management.”
“In Colorado, collaborative forest projects support local jobs, improve wildlife habitat, and reduce hazardous fuels in critical watersheds. These projects—which bring together local governments, timber and utility stakeholders, and conservation groups—reflect the collaborative way Coloradans do business,” said Bennet, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources. “As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I’ll work hard to reauthorize this important program and ensure it receives robust funding.”
“The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program is a commonsense policy to keep our forests healthy and to prevent wildfires,” said Gardner. “This community-based approach recognizes the importance of local knowledge when it comes to forest management and ensures decisions are made with input from the people who live in and around our forests, and the success of the program on the Uncompahgre Plateau and along the front range of Colorado are a testament to this approach. This bipartisan legislation will allow this program to continue and I look forward to seeing it become law soon.”
“This bipartisan effort will support rural communities in New Mexico and across the country as they work to promote healthy forests and grow their economies,” Udall said. “New Mexico communities know too well the increasingly severe toll of wildfires, and that’s why I’m committed to supporting and enhancing common-sense solutions – like this legislation – that are proven to be effective in wildfire prevention. Collaborative approaches to forest management help mitigate and prevent wildfires while engaging local communities and creating jobs for the future.”
“Montana’s Crown of the Continent is home to one of the most successful collaboratives in the nation,” said Tester. “This bill will ensure conservation and timber projects, like the Crown, can continue to create jobs and protect landscapes for future generations. Reauthorizing the Restoration Program will strengthen our outdoor economy and build healthier forests across the nation.”
This bipartisan legislation would extend the program through 2029, and expand its reach by doubling authorized funding from $40 million to $80 million per year.
To date, 23 CFLRP projects in 14 states have sold more than 2.5 billion board feet of timber; created $1.4 billion in local labor income; and improved 760 miles of trails for sports enthusiasts and recreation. On average, CFLRP creates or maintains 5,400 jobs each year at current funding levels – a number that would likely increase if funding is expanded, as proposed by today’s bill.
In addition, CFLRP has reduced the risk of megafires on more than 2.9 million acres. Since its enactment in 2009, CFLRP has a proven track record of success in managing forests to increase forest health, mitigate wildfires, and support rural economies and local voices. CFLRP requires various local stakeholders to collaborate, resulting in stronger relationships on the ground, better projects, and a decreased risk of conflict and litigation.
Friday’s legislation is supported by a broad cross-section of the timber industry, rural economic development entities, and environmental organizations, including Sustainable Northwest, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, Collins Pine Company, Ochoco Lumber, Vaagen Bros Lumber, Avista, The Wilderness Society, American Forests, Society of American Foresters, Pinchot Institute, Forest Business Network, Blue Mountains Forest Partners, Lake County Resources Initiative, The Forest Stewards Guild, Siuslaw Institute, Wallowa Resources, Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, The Lands Council, Western Environmental Law Center, Grand Canyon Trust, Mt. Adams Resource Stewards, The Watershed Center, Salmon Valley Stewardship, Western Landowners Alliance, The Coalition for the Upper South Platte, Choose Outdoors, Western Slope Conservation Center, and Western Colorado Progress.
“The CFLR program is a proven model that has extended collaborative forestry on millions of acres, reducing the risk of harmful wildfires while boosting the health of our treasured American forests and the communities that rely on them for strong economies,” said Kameran Onley, The Nature Conservancy’s director of U.S. Government Relations. “The Nature Conservancy is pleased to support this bipartisan bill and urges its timely enactment.”
“Improving forest health and providing good-paying jobs in our community are at the core of our business,” said Bruce Daucsavage, president of Ochoco Lumber Company. “The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program has sustained jobs at our mill, brought diverse stakeholders together, and resulted in significant restoration on the Malheur National Forest. Stable, long-term funding from programs like CFLRP has also provided the certainty we need to justify increased private investments in our operation. Continuing this program is critical.”
We commend the bipartisan sponsors of this legislation for recognizing the clear benefits the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program provides to our National Forests and rural communities,” said Dylan Kruse, policy director at Sustainable Northwest.
“From reducing wildfire risk, to supporting rural businesses, to improving wildlife habitat and trails for recreation, this program does it all. To date, CFLRP has restored a forested area larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, combined. It generates outsized impacts, leverages millions of dollars in private resources, and has brought together diverse stakeholders in a way that no other program does. Extending and expanding CFLRP so these successes can be replicated is an easy call and should be a top priority for anyone who cares about the health and well-being of our National Forests and communities that depend on them.”
“The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program is an innovative program that helps restore landscapes and sustain local businesses in the rural West,” said Karen Hardigg, director of the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition. “The multi-year funding structure and required collaborative process are essential ingredients of CFLRP that help the Forest Service meet their commitment to shared stewardship.”
The legislation was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, and the senators said they will be working to include it in the 2018 farm bill.
- America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell Debuts Special Colorado Christmas Episode on Dec. 17
- Virtual Opportunity to View Historic 2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Cutting
- Spotlight on Wisconsin Forests during Oct. 21 Premier of America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell
- Health Benefits and Impacts of Healthy Forests Bibliography
- Atop Rotary Peak | Youth Outdoors
- Our Future Forests: Four Ways the Outdoor Recreation Community Can Help
- A Camping Trip with Denver Interact Club
- Remembering Jeff Lowe
- Choose Outdoors signs support letter for Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program extension
- Senators intro bill to double forest restoration funding