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A good idea just keeps getting bigger.

Profiles of people who make a difference for trees and forests

Jan Tjerk Mossel has a dream-a big one. He wants to help preserve all big trees worldwide. He has founded a new organization, the World Tree Foundation, that is similar to AFA's Big Tree program-but on a global scale.

The new group, which also works to save extremely ancient and historically significant trees, will debut in the international press in April, but Mossel and his advisory committee have decided to allow AMERICAN FORESTS to scoop the world press.

The two organizations are natural partners. "AFA could well be the base for a worldwide Big Tree program," Mossel explains, adding that AFA's program, called the National Register of Big Trees, is the oldest in the world, having been founded in 1940.

Mossel, who lives in Nieuwkoop, Holland, and travels internationally in connection with his business, has already contacted 130 nations. Only 15 have a tree program or club, but Mossel has located individual big-tree hunters all over the world.

"The most interesting club found so far is the Tree Lovers Association of Egypt," says Mossel. "This club of retired upper-class gentlemen went out in their suits and ties to hang banners on the viaducts near the Nile last year when the city council wanted to cut down an avenue of old eucalyptus trees." The mayor was so surprised he stopped the cut.

Mossel Was born in a part of Holland known for its nurseries. "I was raised between the rhododendrons and magnolias at my father's nursery," he says, adding that his grandfather was also a nurseryman. After studying at a horticultural college he came to the U.S. briefly and visited Sequoia/ Kings Canyon National Park. "When I saw the biggest trees in the world," he recalls, "they impressed me so much that it laid the foundation for my tree mania. "

He and his wife, Marianne, and three children live in a windmill that served as the original offices of the World Tree Foundation (WTF).

Two years in the making, the nonprofit group was established in 1991. Now, with five advisers and a voluntary staff of three, the WTF has outgrown the windmill and moved into an historic building in the town of Utrecht.

Mossel sees the WTF as an umbrella organization for all groups working to preserve trees. In addition to developing a data base of big, legendary, and holy trees, the WTF will educate the public about the importance of saving those irreplaceable trees.

Formal activities will begin with a major fundraising campaign at the World Horticultural Exhibition the Floriade near the Hague. Initial focus will be on six trees in urgent need of help. Among them are the Plane Tree of Hippocrates on the Greek island of Kos and a Fitzroya tree in Chile thought to be the oldest tree in the Southern Hemisphere.

The third is the legendary Tree of the Virgin Mary, a 2,000-year-old fig tree in Cairo threatened by pollution from sewage water. The WTF will also be raising funds for a German tree thought to be Europe's oldest living Camellia. "It needs a new greenhouse to help it through the too-cold winters of Europe," says Mossel, explaining that the tree has outgrown its present building.

The other two are a Ficus religiosa in Sri Lanka and a Dragon tree in the Canary Islands, indicating that the World Tree Foundation is already far-flung in its reach. For further information, write World Tree Foundation, Donkerstraat 17,3511 KB, Utrecht, Holland.
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Title Annotation:Earthkeepers: profiles of people who make a difference for trees and forests; profile of Jan Tjerk Mossel, founder of the World Tree Foundation
Author:Kirby, Dan
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:586
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