Oregon to Provide the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018


Sweet Home, Ore., January 19, 2018 – The Willamette National Forest announced that Oregon has been selected to provide the 2018 United States Capitol Christmas Tree. A gift from the Willamette National Forest and the State of Oregon to the people of the United States, the tree will be displayed on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., with a public tree-lighting ceremony in early December 2018.

Every year since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has provided the Capitol Christmas Tree. This year, the Capitol Christmas Tree will be cut from the Sweet Home Ranger District. Seventy smaller companion trees will also be sent to Washington, D.C., to decorate government buildings and public spaces this December. Additionally, Oregonians will contribute 10,000 handmade ornaments, to be created throughout 2018. These ornaments will celebrate the state’s cultural history and people, landscapes, natural resources, and fish and wildlife.

The theme for the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree is “Find Your Trail!” in recognition of two 2018 anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, and the 175th commemoration of the Oregon Trail.

“We are thrilled to be delivering the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and we invite all Oregonians to be a part of this special experience throughout 2018—from making an ornament to exploring the Willamette National Forest with family and friends—in search of the perfect tree to send to Washington, D.C.,” said Nikki Swanson, Sweet Home District Ranger, Willamette National Forest.

“There is a rich history of Oregon’s forests providing for the needs of Oregonians. The Willamette National Forest provides recreational opportunities, fishing, hunting, mushroom harvesting, firewood, minerals, wood products and, of course, Christmas trees. We hope this yearlong Capitol Christmas Tree event inspires people to explore the National Forests across Oregon, and to ‘Find Your Trail,’” she continued.

The last time Oregon was chosen to provide the Capitol Christmas Tree was in 2002, when a tree was selected from the Umpqua National Forest.

“We are very honored to have been chosen to provide the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and to share some of our state’s incredible beauty with the rest of America,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown. “Majestic, towering conifers have long stood as an icon of Oregon’s magnificent forests. This tree will symbolize our rich natural resources, our deep Native American heritage, and the people of Oregon, who are known for their independent spirit, innovation and love for our state’s diverse landscapes.”

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree’s Journey to Washington, D.C.

In November 2018, a modern-day wagon train carrying the Christmas tree and ornaments will begin its eastward journey from Sweet Home, following the path of the Oregon Trail in reverse. The wagon train will make stops in a variety of communities across Oregon and the country before arriving in Washington, D.C. The travel route, schedule and special events will be available at www.capitolchristmastree.com.

The Willamette National Forest has partnered with Choose Outdoors and Travel Oregon for the Capitol Christmas Tree project, and a host of partners, sponsors, and volunteers will contribute funding and thousands of hours to help make ornaments and transport the tree from Oregon to Washington, D.C.

Opportunities for Public Participation Throughout 2018

Oregonians and Oregon visitors are invited to participate in U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree activities around the state during 2018, including helping to find the perfect tree to go to Washington, D.C.

  • Find the tree! The public is invited to hike and drive the Willamette National Forest—outside of the City of Sweet Home—to look for the perfect Capitol Christmas Tree. To submit a potential candidate tree, GPS the location, snap a photo, and send the submission to capitolchristmastree2018@gmail.com, or drop your information off at the Sweet Home Ranger District Office. Guidelines: The perfect tree is 65 to 85 feet in height with a conical shape that is visually pleasing from all angles. The tree must reside on U.S. Forest Service land in the Sweet Home Ranger District, preferably close to a road that will allow for access for a semi-truck and cranes to harvest the tree. Submission deadline: May 2018. Don’t forget to share your adventures on social media (Facebook and Twitter) with the #USCapitolChristmasTree, #FindYourTrail and #ItsAllYours hashtags.
  • Join an ornament-making event or host your own. Ten thousand handmade ornaments will adorn the Capitol Christmas Tree and the 70 smaller companion trees. There will be ornament-making events throughout Oregon in 2018. The first event will take place on January 20 at the Boys & Girls Club in Sweet Home (1 p.m.; 890 18th Ave.). The Willamette National Forest also invites schools, churches and community groups to contribute ornaments. There will be templates and instructions posted on the website and social media. For a schedule of events and further details, visit www.capitolchristmastree.com.
  • See the Capitol Christmas Tree as it travels along the Oregon Trail in November 2018. The travel route, schedule and special events will be available at www.capitolchristmastree.com.

For more information: Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com

To get involved: Capitol Christmas Tree email, capitolchristmastree2018@gmail.com


Colorado Premier of America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell to air Jan. 25 on Rocky Mountain PBS

Thursday, January 18, 2018


DENVER, Jan. 18, 2018 – Colorado takes the stage in the next episode of the new national TV series, America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell. The series explores challenges, opportunities and innovations happening in America’s forests, and the Colorado episode will air on Rocky Mountain PBS on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. MST.

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.”

Colorado is featured in the second episode in the series and includes segments on the therapeutic value of our forests, the importance of forests to our water supply and the innovative ideas on turning the wood from forests devastated by the mountain pine beetle epidemic into musical instruments, skis, snowboards and sustainable building applications.

Using the episode as inspiration, conversations on forest health, management and utilization with voices that represent a variety of perspectives will take place during a special film premier event on Jan. 24 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. A private VIP reception will kick off the event and include remarks from Leavell, Governor John Hickenlooper, Tony Tooke, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and Chris Topik, Director of Forest Restoration at The Nature Conservancy. At 7 p.m., the public is invited to a showing of the Colorado episode and an intimate fireside chat hosted by Leavell alongside Brian Ferebee, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of U.S. Forest Service; Jim Neiman, President and CEO of Neiman Enterprises; and Paige Lewis, Deputy Director/Director of Conservation of the Colorado chapter of The Nature Conservancy. A limited amount of tickets is still available to the film premier and fireside chat by RSVP’ing online at /tiny.cc/chuckleavallcolorado.

“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 Colorado episode was made possible with support from the U.S. Forest Service, Denver Water, Colorado State Forest Service, Intermountain Forest Association, El Pomar Foundation, Rocky Mountain PBS and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Visit americasforestswithchuckleavell.com, follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or contact Bruce Ward, President of Choose Outdoors, at bruceward1@gmail.com or 303- 917-1476.

About the Series

America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell captures the breadth of our nation’s woodlands – both public and private. It features different stories that demonstrate how important forest habitats are to the well-being and economic health of communities across the country. The series will present individuals who embody this passion for the woods, from architects to artists, from climbers to carpenters. Visit americasforestswithchuckleavell.com.

About Chuck Leavell

Chuck Leavell is one of a kind. His musical career includes work with The Rolling Stones, but also with Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers Band, John Mayer and a host of others. AND he is acclaimed as a conservationist, environmentalist, author and tree farmer. After studying forestry by correspondence and doing much of his homework while riding a tour bus with the Fabulous Thunderbirds in the mid ‘80s, Chuck and wife Rose Lane Leavell turned her family’s plantation near Macon, Ga., into what has become a textbook and award-winning tree farm. He is also the co-founder of The Mother Nature Network www.mnn.com, the world’s leading environmental website.

About the U.S. Forest Service

The Forest Service is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that manages 193 million acres of land, roughly the size of Texas. The Rocky Mountain Region includes 17 national forests and seven national grasslands located in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. For more information, visit www.fed.fs.us.

About Choose Outdoors

Choose Outdoors is a national nonprofit, “Connecting All Americans to our Public Lands through Recreation.” It encourages the appreciation of, and support for, all public lands. Visit Chooseoutdoors.org to learn more.

About Rocky Mountain Public Media

Rocky Mountain Public Media is Colorado’s largest statewide, member-supported, multimedia organization and the parent company of Rocky Mountain PBS and KUVO Jazz. Rocky Mountain Public Media reaches 98% of the state’s citizens through television, radio and digital platforms. A non-commercial media organization by and for the people of Colorado, we create high quality local and multimedia content through Regional Innovation Centers in Denver, Colorado Springs, Durango, Grand Junction and Pueblo. Our enriching journalism, educational and cultural programming connects and engages citizens for lifelong impact. RMPBS, started in Denver in 1956 as Colorado's first public television station, is now a statewide television network, with stations in Denver (KRMA), Pueblo/Colorado Springs (KTSC), Steamboat Springs (KRMZ), Grand Junction (KRMJ) and Durango (KRMU). Visit us rmpbs.org/home.

About The Colorado State Forest Service

The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) provides professional forestry assistance, wildfire mitigation expertise and outreach and education to help landowners and communities achieve their forest management goals. The CSFS is a service and outreach agency of the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University and provides staffing for the Division of Forestry within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. For more information, visit www.csfs.colostate.edu or follow the agency online via Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.


The Climb

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The familiar sound of the Skype ringtone fills the stillness of the room; a far cry from the sounds of the outdoors that permeates my memory. I click the green answer icon at the bottom of the screen. The screen flickers and eventually lights up. On the other side of the screen are two smiling faces: Connie Self and Jeff Lowe. They introduce themselves, but they don’t need to; I know them as leaders of the outdoor industry, climbers, and pioneers of the field. I gather my notebook – nervous – and let my eyes fall to the first question: What is your earliest memory of the outdoors?

    Most people can remember little moments that changed them. Experiences that left them changed, and different from before. It’s easy to look back at these moments and recognize them as defining points of our lives, the moment that helps realize who we are. For Connie and Jeff, these moments both took place in the outdoors.

    The pair, who now reside in Lafayette, Colorado, are a wonderful team. They balance each other effortlessly and it is impossible not to catch the spirit of adventure that they embody within their stories. Limited now by a rare illness which debilitates his ability to talk and confines him to a wheelchair, Jeff demonstrates his love for the outdoors by the beautiful stories he shares with Connie’s assistance.

    The power duo does not let the day-to-day struggles and Jeff’s physical restrictions rain on their parade, and have made time to produce a movie recounting the trials and triumphs of Jeff’s climbing days and the current challenges of his life. The award winning documentary film, Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia, is narrated by New York Times best selling author Jon Krakauer. Krakauer recounts Jeff’s solo winter climb up the Eiger’s north face and Jeff’s grace filled dance of life in a wheelchair. The film has been widely successful within the outdoor community and far beyond, winning 17 major awards at Film Festivals around the world. Connie displays her attitude best with a mantra she revisits daily, “Do the best you can, with what you’ve got, from where you are, right now.”

    Early Beginnings

    Connie explains early memories of weekend camping trips, followed by afternoons spent outside traversing the woods near her house. She is a gifted storyteller and captures the attention of all around. With genuine enthusiasm, she tells me stories of her earliest memories: Her father building a homemade canoe transporter made out of a wagon and her mother facing a bear head-on in a Minnesota campground. The independence and bravery that the outdoors helped instill at a young age helped cultivate values and a lifestyle that continued on as Connie grew from a child to a young adult.

    For Jeff, it was those early memories of hiking up into the mountains near his house in Ogden, Utah, and learning climbing techniques from his father, Ralph Lowe, a seasoned climber himself and one of Jeff’s most influential mentors. The Lowe family also had a soft spot for animals and some of Jeff’s childhood pets included a bear named Bruno and a pair of wolves.

    At just seven years old, Jeff was the youngest person to reach the top of Grand Teton with his Dad and brother Greg. On the descent, Jeff fell and bumped his head on a rock. His father helped him right away, but by the time the group made it back to the trailhead, Jeff had lost interest in climbing. He spent the next two years making excuses and finding ways to avoid climbing trips. “It wasn’t until his desire to go climbing overcame his fear of the challenge,” said Connie. After two years out of the sport Jeff was ready to jump back in.

    Both Connie and Jeff agree that a climber or athlete should never put themselves at risk for fame. “If I could tell a young climber or outdoor enthusiast one thing, it would be to simply enjoy the sport. Don’t do it for money, don’t do it for sponsorships, do it for you.”

    It’s a few days after talking with Jeff and Connie that I am at a climbing wall with my sister. My hands have been chalk and blister free for a few years now, but I’m excited to be back. I’m not here for the sport. I’m not here for to prove anything to anyone. I’m here to get back to the place that I love.

    A rhythm of words voiced by Connie are stuck in my head and I look up at the pattern of rocks on the wall.

    “Do the best you can, with what you’ve got, from where you are, right now.” My left hand reaches for the next groove on the wall, and onward and upward I go.

Watch the trailer for Jeff and Connie's film below:

An Adventure for All – Rotary Peak

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Travelers stopping to view the beauty and have their pictures taken by the sign that proclaims Loveland Pass – Elevation 11,990 Ft. – Continental Divide, may have been surprised at the large gathering of well-prepared hikers assembling at the West Ridge trail head one Saturday morning in July. Over twenty members of Rotary Clubs, families, and friends walked the trail leading to what is becoming known locally as “Rotary Peak.” This 12,479’ peak is located on the Continental Divide Trail 1.5 miles west of Loveland Pass.


Dave Muller, a well-known Denver author of 8 Colorado trail guide books, had long wondered why such a popular hiking destination didn’t have a name. Being named, it would be easier for the public to alert first responders of their location should an emergency arise, or simply to describe their outdoor adventures to friends. Dave wanted the peak to be named for a significant Colorado group that’s had a long and positive history improving local communities and championing the preservation of our outdoor resources.

On learning of the 105 year history of Rotary clubs throughout Colorado and the countless community service projects performed, Dave contacted a Rotary club member about his idea and it was an immediate hit, receiving broad support from Rotarians as well as local towns, counties, and many others. Rotary clubs in communities throughout the mountains and along the Front Range envisioned creation of local youth programs focused on bringing young people up to “Rotary Peak” to encourage appreciation of our Colorado Rockies. There are also many possibilities for engaging youth and Rotarians in supervised trail restorations, trail steward programs, and other related activities.

Wildfires, Who is to blame?

Saturday, April 02, 2016

As I write this, I can still see smoke and flames from my home. My family and I live just southwest of Denver in the "wilderness urban interface". As I write this, I can still see smoke and flames from my home. My family and I live just southwest of Denver in the "wilderness urban interface".

We have lived here for decades because of our love of Colorado's beauty, but now the yearly "fire watch" causes us pause as we hold our breath in the annual exercise hoping the forest around us doesn't turn to smoke. This week's fire - the Lower North Fork – is now approximately 70% contained – another massive catastrophic Colorado wildfire now claiming at least three human lives, plus 27 homes, over 4,200 acres southwest of Denver in this most beautiful "wilderness urban interface".

Governor Hickenlooper promises an investigation will determine responsibility for this tragedy. Who is to blame? We demand no less. More importantly – why are we suffering such yearly fire catastrophes? Is this just the cost of living with trees? Can this trend not be extinguished? Is this inevitable, the truth behind Smokey The Bear ringing accusation -"only YOU can prevent Forest Fires!" Is there anything else we can do? Can future fires like this be prevented or only fought after the fact?

The Good News? We may well be able to reduce or prevent future fires by promoting forest health and youth. The Bad News? We may have to give up the easy answers of either blaming one person for "setting" each fire, and that there is nothing we can do to prevent these fires. Understanding the underlying cause and addressing it gives us the ability to stop the endless cycle of tragic yearly fires.

We need to drop the fiction that trees are not living things; like all living things they have finite life spans. Like us when they get old nature wants to help them go to bring in new life. This radical idea of recognizing the cycle of life means forest health is contingent on new trees. Which requires us to challenge our collective believe that cutting down trees is not "environmental" or "green". We need to see Nature's agenda as our own and be more pro new growth. The old ethos of "Let nature take its course," and "in 500 years the earth will have healed itself" must be seen as flawed. We can contribute to Nature's health, the health of the forest, and in so doing, our own health too.

The problem has roots that when the West was being settled and clear cutting was considered expedient but wasteful we were more focused on creating a civilized west even if we disrupted the natural environment and the natural cycle of fire burning old trees to keep the forest young and healthy. The unintended consequences of that fear of fire, of endless fire suppression are now manifesting themselves in these massive fires as Nature works to keep the circle of life turning. Native Americans understood the value of "controlled burns", commonly set fires every Spring knowing it kept the trees and animals within younger and stronger and saw fire as a tool used extensively prior to the white man's encroachment and restrictions.

The well documented excesses of tree harvesting without environmental limits in the 19th and 20th Centuries created a culture that reacted by believing that cutting any tree was sacrilege, using products made from trees wasteful and uneducated. Tree Killers should feel guilty about their role in hastening the destruction of our planet.

But we are wiser than that now. We know many pine trees in nature would have life spans not much longer than the longest living human – yet we protect geriatric trees whose very nature is turning them toward fire and replacement as though they could – they should last forever with our help. This is wrong. Now that we can see the effects all around us as nature pushes to return to a balance allowing new trees to replace the old, the time has come to dispel that well intentioned but wrong environmentalist mantra that forbids "killing trees" and realize that interfering with nature is what creates the problem. Now is the time to embrace a new environmentalist culture that embraces planting new trees, that enjoys wood products from local sources because they come from renewable resources, provide jobs to rural economies, and most importantly bring our environment back into balance, introduce health and youth into our forests as we reduce the density of forests back to the pre-Columbian norm.

When I was first asked by Undersecretary of Agriculture Harris Sherman to help increase the public's awareness of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and help engage the private sector to create solutions to deal with millions of acres of pine trees dying and turning brown – our own "Katrina of the West", local stakeholders shared with me the problem of geriatric forests and explained to me the complexity of our problem and the unprecedented magnitude of the epidemic we have created.

Turning to those working to solve the ongoing beetle kill catastrophe I found caring citizens who were using and encouraged the use of "Rocky Mountain Blue Stain" wood; a community throughout the west of environmentalists, lumberman, builders, lumber yards, pellet mills, furniture makers all working together to take our blue wood and turn it into products that would help the forest heal. But even these efforts struggle against the mistaken belief that using wood is bad. This is just the first of many steps to use wood as part of a pro-environmental effort to heal our forests and make them young and healthy again. With careful effort, we can harvest the wood, use this gift and make these living wooden lungs pull more carbon from the air, leave more oxygen, and make our world safer and greener and healthier. They encouraged me to join their longstanding efforts to tell the story of aging trees, dead trees waiting to be used – of too much wood waiting for us to use it to build a better world, and the dire consequences inevitably waiting if we didn't educate the public's mind about the wisdom of using wood for all the right environmental reasons.

The time is now to change decades of outmoded public perception that the only good forestry goal is to let our forests age, and how sustainable forestry is married to utilizing wood products in order to plant and grow new trees.

Join us and help spread the word – Loving Trees, planning new trees creates a more fire resistant home for all of us. Now, before it is too late and old forests are burning and there is little left for us to enjoy and experience that is the marvel of healthy living forests. To not help make a better, greener future with new trees means betraying the legacy of those visionary conservationists like Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, John Muir and so many others that have gone before us and in their wisdom understood the importance of our natural lands.

Love our trees. Help us replace the old with new and in so doing put out the fires destroying so much needlessly.

Restoring Our Connection to the Land

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

For every American there can be no greater reward for ones's work then to be asked to come to the White House to share your thoughts. To be included with outstanding representatives from across the country as "Champions of Change" on behalf of rural Americans was truly an honor and a extraordinary example of our system of government at its finest, as well as exemplifying the sincere interest by the Administration to hear from "real people" outside the proverbial "Beltway."

As I looked around the room at the farmers and ranchers who literally had to leave their chores for the day to be in DC, I thought how fortunate we are to still be able to honor the way of life that helped make this country what it is today, and importantly how we can learn from them how to instill those characteristics in future generations of rural Americans.

My work for the last 30 plus years has been of a different, but closely related nature. Connecting Americans and our visitors to the land through tourism and outdoor recreation has been my passion. First as an international tour guide leading camping tours across the country, then serving as President of the American Hiking Society and Co-executive Director of the Continental Divide Trail Alliance with my wife, Paula and then founder of Choose Outdoors, a national nonprofit that seeks to connect all Americans to the land through Outdoor Recreation.

As Horace Axtell, a tribal elder cautioned many years ago. "Many of the problems of today's society are directly related to our lack of connection to the land. We must do all we can to find ways to bring future generations back to appreciating the natural environment." He truly understood "Nature Deficit Disorder" long before the term was used.

The meeting with the President, Secretary of Agriculture, Champions of Change and other high level members of the Administration was, for me, an exhilarating and rewarding opportunity to be a part of an effort that will help our country out-educate and out-innovate the rest of the world and help us carry on the legacy our forefathers envisioned.