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Fifty years of champions.

FIFTY YEARS OF CHAMPIONS

1940 The world is in a state of change. Rationing is instituted in Britain. Trotsky is assassinated in Mexico on Stalin's orders. FDR is re-elected for a third term, defeating Wendell Willkie, and John L. Lewis resigns in disgust as head of the CIO. In the arts, Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls and Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine are published and the movie version of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath opens in the theaters.

On the home forestry front, the U.S. Forest Service - then only 35 years old - gears up to supply wood to a nation at war. An article in the January 1940 issue of AMERICAN FORESTS magazine notes the necessity of wood for modern warfare - for everything from pontoons and corduroy roads to gas-mask filters.

Perhaps it was the disconcerting feeling that nothing was constant in the changing world of 1940 that led forester Joseph L. Sterns to publish his plea in AMERICAN FORESTS to "Find and Save the Biggest Trees" (September 1940). Big trees seem immortal. They live for centuries in spite of changes that threaten to alter the world forever.

Table : BIG TREES THEN & NOW APRIL 1941
SPECIES CIRC. HGHT. SPR. LOCATION
COTTONWOOD (PLAINS) 356" 55' 70' THERMOPOLIS, WY
AMERICAN ELM 336" 147' 97' MIDDLETOWN, CT
HACKBERRY 148" 72' 68' VINTON, MD
KENTUCKY COFFEETREE 113" 76' 71' HICKORY, MD
SUGAR MAPLE 202" 80' 82' NORTH KINGSVILLE, OH
LIVE OAK 420" 178' 168' HAHNVILLE, LA
*WHITE OAK 332" 95' 165' WYE MILLS, MD
LOBLOLLY PINE 199" 84' 105' CARMICHAEL, MD
EASTERN WHITE PINE 138" 159' 40' MERRILL, MD
*SEQUOIA 1218" 272'4" SEQUOIA NATL. PARK, CA


JANUARY 1990
SPECIES CIRC. HGHT. SPR. LOCATION
COTTONWOOD (PLAINS) 432" 105' 93' HYGIENE, CO
AMERICAN ELM 310" 95' 116' LOUISVILLE, KS
HACKBERRY 242" 111' 89' ROCK COUNTY, WI
KENTUCKY COFFEETREE 212" 78' 84' WEST LIBERTY, KY
SUGAR MAPLE 269" 91' 80' NORWICH, CT
LIVE OAK 439" 55' 132' LEWISBURG, LA
*WHITE OAK 414" 107' 145' WYE MILLS, MD
LOBLOLLY PINE 257" 135' 80' KING WILLIAM CO., VA
EASTERN WHITE PINE 186" 201' 52' MARQUETTE, MI
*SEQUOIA 998" 275' 107' SEQUOIA NATL. PARK, CA


*STILL CURRENT CHAMPION

The fear that a full-blown world war would deplete America's wood resources, and perhaps rob the country of our majestic "living landmark" trees, may have also compelled Sterns to put out his "challenge to every individual tree lover . . . to fight for the preservation of our biggest tree specimens." Sterns, a research engineer with Southern Hardwood Producers of Memphis, Tennessee, was obviously concerned about the future when he wrote that the "gradual disappearance of our most magnificent remaining tree specimens" is "one of the most tragic stories in the history of American forests."

Sterns ended his call to action with the statement, "If an organization is necessary to accomplish (the preservation of America's big trees), then let's organize. Or . . . rally behind some established national forest conservation organization able and willing" to take on the monumental task of registering the largest trees of every native and naturalized species in the United States. Not surprisingly, the American Forestry Association rose to the occasion by endorsing Sterns' appeal and taking the leadership in a national program to locate and preserve the largest trees.

AFA started with a list of 100 species published beneath the headline, "WANTED! The Location and Measurement of the Largest Specimens of the Following American Tree Species." Association officials realized that the success or failure of this undertaking would depend on the active participation of tree lovers everywhere. For all 50 years of the program, the heart and soul of the Big Tree Program has been this dependence on citizens to hunt down mammoth trees and submit nominations to the Register.

Starting with the nomination of the Suffield, Connecticut, Chestnut Oak, highlighted in AMERICAN FORESTS in October 1940, AFA members began the task of locating champion trees. The month after Sterns' article appeared, AMERICAN FORESTS started a regular feature on each new nominee. The November 1940 issue featured Maryland's Wye Oak - one of only five trees that have held their national championship status for 50 years. The others are the Rocky Mountain Juniper, Western Juniper, California Sycamore, and the General Sherman Giant Sequoia.

More often, a tree's championship status was fleeting. During my three-year tenure as Director of the Big Tree program, many trees have held their crowns so briefly that they never achieved recognition in a printed National Register, published every four years, or in an update, published two years later.

In March 1943, the Liberty Tree in Annapolis, Maryland, widely known as the ledgendary meetingplace of the Sons of Liberty during the American Revolution, was declared the National Champion tuliptree. Although it has been dethroned as champion, it is still regarded as a famous and historic tree, and has not faded into obscurity as have other former champions.

The Liberty Tree saga points up the conceptual link between the National Register of Big Trees and another AFA effort, Famous and Historic Trees. Both focus on remarkable tree specimens, and both types of trees are generally quite old. Although the Association does not actually administer a register of Famous and Historic Trees, our book of the same name continues to be one of our bestsellers.

A preliminary list of 77 "American Big Trees" was published in the April 1941 magazine, but the first full list of 228 species did not appear until the January 1945 AMERICAN FORESTS. Subsequent lists were published in 1951 and 1955, and in January 1961 the list was ballyhooed as "AFA's Social Register of Big Trees." By that time the Register had grown in include 355 National Champions. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia claimed champion trees; California led the pack with 41. In 1969, AFA published a special list of champions growing in Hawaii, newest state in the Union, and the one with the most exotic species of "American" trees.

The 1970s and 1980s saw a continuing interest in Big Trees, with hundreds of nominations arriving at AFA headquarters each year. Teachers in elementary schools and colleges alike found the National Register of Big Trees to be a fun learning tool for disciplines ranging from dendrology to mathematics. State-sponsored competitions and rivalries added to the thrill of big-tree hunting, and magazines and newspapers kept their readers updated on the latest winners and losers.

With the publication of the 1986 Register, public awareness and enthusiasm for big trees hit an alltime high. National Champion Big Trees were featured on the front page of the Sunday New York Times, and coverage in USA Today and U.S. News and World Report soon followed.

Now, as we enter the final decade of the 20th century, the National Register of Big Trees turns another corner in its long history. For the first time, print public service advertisements have started to appear in national magazines and local newspapers encouraging interested people to write for AFA's new Big Trees brochure on how to measure and nominate a Champion.

With sponsorship from the Davey Tree Expert Company, AFA is going all out to tell the story of America's Living Landmarks as never before, with the publication you now hold. The listings in this special edition contain the current National Champion trees for over 850 native and naturalized species in the United States. Those listings also indicate 206 species for which there is no National Champion.

Many "Big Tree hunters" have achieved at least local fame and the good fortune to be listed in the Register. Though they are not yet household names, Maynard Drawson of Oregon, Paul Thompson of Michigan, and Byron Carmean, Gary Williamson, and Richard Salzer of Virginia have numerous Big Tree finds to their credit. With over 200 "championless" species up for grabs, you have a good shot at making the record book. So step out, look up, and take your place in history by helping to recognize and preserve these Living Landmarks as an invaluable part of our nation's natural heritage.

TO NOMINATE A CHAMP

For each nomination, we need:

1. Correct name of the species or variety. If you need help with identification, call your local Forest Service or Extension office.

2. Circumference of the tree in inches at 4 1/2 feet above the ground. If there is a growth or branch at this point, measure the narrowest point below 4 1/2 feet.

3. Total vertical height of tree to nearest foot.

4. Average diameter of the crown to the nearest foot. Measure the widest spread of the crown and the narrowest, then add them together and divide by two.

5. Location.

6. Date measured, and by whom.

7. Name and address of owner.

8. Clear photograph with date.

9. Description of the tree's physical condition and state of preservation.

10. Name and address of nominator.

Send all nominations to: The National Register of Big Trees, P.O. Box 2000, Washington, DC 20013.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes related information; National Register of Big Trees
Author:Gangloff, Deborah
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Words:1490
Previous Article:Partners for a greener world.
Next Article:Nobility in the underbrush.
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