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Global ReLeaf casts historic shadow on Moscow peace parade.

There's a 10-foot sycamore struggling to recover from being transplanted to the lawn of the Russian White House in Moscow. That's not news, but how and why it got there makes an interesting story that illustrates how far afield American Forests and the Global ReLeaf idea are reaching these days.

A couple of months ago, Gudrun (Gus) McCarthy of St. Louis, Missouri, noticed a small ad in Midwest Living that promoted American Forests' Famous and Historic Tree Program, part of the Global ReLeaf initiative. It encouraged people to purchase a tree for the Historic Forests project near Des Moines, Iowa. Gus, who prepares German-language news releases for Voice of America, thought it sounded like an interesting story for her listeners, so she called project coordinator Jeff Meyer at Classic Tree Nursery in Jacksonville, Florida, to get more details. In the meantime, she mentioned the idea to her husband, Kevin, who also reports for VOA in addition to being the "morning man" on radio station KLOU in St. Louis.

When the McCarthys heard how seeds from trees associated with America's famous people and historic places are being grown for educational and memorial plantings elsewhere, they became excited about the program's potential for reaching people in other countries. Meyer encouraged them to contact their friends abroad and see what might happen. One of those contacted was Sergei Goryachev, a news reporter on the Russian equivalent of NBC's "Today" show.

On April 20, a fax arrived at American Forests' Washington, DC, offices. "You are invited to come to Moscow on May 9, to march in the Peace Parade that celebrates the end of the Cold War, and present a tree to be planted on the Russian White House lawn," it read. (The Peace Victory Parade replaced the annual May Day parade, a saber-rattling fixture of the old Soviet regime.) In addition, the message continued, the idea of starting an exchange of Famous and Historic Trees--in which educational groves from the U.S. would be planted in Russia, and seed from famous Russian trees would be brought to the U.S.-- was enthusiastically accepted.

Thus, with three weeks to prepare, a Famous and Historic Tree exchange was launched. Species adaptation in Moscow was checked, specimens of the proper species were identified, and both Russian and U.S. health and quarantine standards were satisfied. Media interest mounted. But for the staff of Forests, a problem remained: How to fund a trip to Moscow, including the shipment of a fairly large tree? While the appeal of establishing an exchange with the Russian people was obvious, it was equally obvious that our budget wouldn't allow it.

After a quick search for a special grant proved unsuccessful, the focus settled on the trees themselves, and on people already involved in the Famous and Historic Tree Program. One of those called was West Penn Power, an electric utility serving western Pennsylvania. West Penn sponsors Famous and Historic educational groves at schools and towns throughout its service area, and knows the program's appeal. President Jay Pifer, a leader in community and youth affairs, was willing to sponsor the large tree and eager to accompany the expedition.

In Jacksonville, St. Louis, Des Moines, and Washington, DC, American Forests members and friends sought sponsors for the smaller trees that would accompany the historic George Washington White Plains sycamore. Sponsors would receive a beautiful certificate in both Russian and English, denoting their participation in the international exchange, and an identical tree seedling that could be planted to commemorate the event. Emily Smith, a realtor in Jacksonville and an acquaintance of Meyer, offered to help. Letters to Global ReLeaf partners began to get positive replies. Trans-World Airlines responded to Gus McCarthy's request by providing reducedrate airplane tickets for American Forests staff. Within two weeks, financial support for the trip was assured.

It was an excited crowd of nine American Forests members and staff that met at New York's Kennedy Airport to begin the journey to Moscow. Tucked away in the baggage compartment (we hoped) was a 10-foot box containing 61 carefully packed trees. Fourteen hours, eight time zones, and two airplanes later, nurseryman Meyer breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the big box unloaded onto a waiting Russian army truck.

The May 9 event, we soon learned, was a major attempt to celebrate the peaceful relations between East and West, focusing on the participants in World War II. In addition to Russian bands and organizations, there were groups from the United States, Germany, and Italy. The U.S. delegation contained the Command Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, 22 winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and musical youth groups from Arlington, Virginia, and Seattle, Washington. Planning and management for the event was by Rantek

International, Ltd., whose main goal is to build East-West cooperation in business and technology.

Saturday's parade began under cool, cloudy skies that soon gave way to a pleasant, sunny day. The parade formed in front of the Russian White House, where Vice President Alexander Rutskoi and other officials addressed the crowd. Then it was off to the tree planting site, where Jay Pifer presented the sycamore to Rutskoi as a special gift from America and American Forests.

The George Washington White Plains sycamore was grown from seed of the huge old tree that shaded General George Washington's headquarters near White Plains, New York, during America's Revolutionary War. In presenting it, Pifer noted his hope that "the new Russian experiment in freedom and democracy will continue to grow and thrive for 200 years, as has the American experience, and that this tree will live to watch over a free and democratic Russia for centuries to come".

Following the Saturday festivities, the American Forests delegation broke into two groups, with some going to Kiev, Ukraine, and the rest remaining in Moscow. Those in Moscow visited the Moscow Botanical Gardens and presented the bulk of the small American historic trees for future educational plantings.

In Kiev, American Forests' Richard Crouse, vice president for development; Chrys Sonevytsky, international coordinator; and I joined the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, Ivan Pliushch, in planting trees at the Kiev Ecocenter School, a beautiful urban plantation where schoolchildren come on day trips to work with trees, animals, and plants and learn about the environment. Planting participants included U.S. embassy representatives and our Global ReLeaf partners from the National Ecological Center, Jaroslav Movchan and Tatiana Gardashuk.

Trips to the Kiev home of Ukrainian poet and freedom fighter Taras Shevchenko and the Kiev Botanical Gardens resulted in agreements to exchange seed from Famous and Historic Trees, so people in each country can recognize the other's history, botany, and culture.

Coming home brought a rush of memories and thoughts to the American Forests group. Famous and Historic trees are not going to reforest the world, nor are they going to solve major environmental problems. They are, however, an effective means of directing the public's attention to the value of trees and forests. They make an excellent "opener" to a wider audience, so that the American Forests story can be told. And they demonstrate, for all of us, that the interest and fascination with trees and forests so common in American Forests members does not stop at the edge of the Atlantic.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:American Forests Today; Famous and Historic Tree Program between US and Moscow
Author:Sampson, Neil
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Words:1216
Previous Article:Winning the peace.
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