Vilsack to announce new initiative at Celebrate Forests! event

“Celebrate Forests, Celebrate Life” campaign highlights how American forests contribute to health and livelihoods.

WASHINGTON—Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, key members of Congress including Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), and a consortium of top officials from America’s leading forest and conservation organizations, will join together to highlight the importance of America’s forests during a special celebration and reception here in Washington, D.C.

At the event, Secretary Vilsack will make an important announcement about a new USDA initiative that will help generate new jobs and promote rural economies.

The reception will be hosted by the American Forest Foundation, the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Washington Plaza Hotel as part of the U.N. General Assembly’s International Year of Forests 2011. The event launches the U.S. celebration of America’s forests, which will be a year long series of events across the country.

“Forests are more than just trees. They give us clean air and water, provide good paying jobs and the wood products we use every day, and the outdoor classrooms where children learn about the natural world,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. “Most of America’s forests are owned privately, and we’re celebrating the unique role family forest owners play in sustainably managing America’s forest legacy. Secretary Vilsack understands that healthy forests need healthy markets, and he is a champion for working forests and their importance to America’s economy and well-being,” added Martin.

“We are celebrating trees and forests because they improve the lives of all Americans every day,” said Jay Farrell, executive director of the National Association of State Foresters. “We also want to celebrate the state foresters and other trained professionals that manage and protect this vital resource. These dedicated experts work hard to ensure healthy forests produce the many public benefits most of us take for granted.”

About the Reception

The IYOF reception will include music by Chuck Leavell, keyboardist with the Rolling Stones and American Tree Farm System® Certified Tree Farmer, along with the Second Amendments, a rock and country band whose artists are members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn), Ranking Member House Committee on Agriculture.

The reception will include an exhibit hall highlighting the benefits that forests provide, and the opportunity to meet and learn firsthand from the organizations and individuals working to enhance and protect America’s forests.

Also on display will be youth-created Forest Exchange Boxes from 50 states and the District of Columbia. Project Learning Tree®, AFF’s environmental education program, worked with teachers and students to compile one display box from each state to show the unique characteristics of their state forests.

About the International Year of Forests

International Year of Forests 2011 is dedicated to raising awareness about the challenges facing the world’s forests today, promoting dialogue about forests and people, and much needed forest conservation. The global campaign aims to motivate people to help sustain and manage forests for the future. NASF recently launched an interactive website www.celebrateforests.com to house all U.S.-based information, including a master events calendar, event host toolkit, and news on the campaign.

About the Threat to America’s Forest Heritage

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) released a new report assessing the growing threats to America’s forests heritage. Stem the Loss looks at the multiple factors that have aligned to form a perfect storm threatening America’s forest heritage, including:

  • an aging population of forest owners and an unprecedented transfer of forest land
  • development pressures
  • catastrophic fires, pests and pathogens
  • warmer temperatures
  • weak markets for wood products

To stem the loss of America’s forest legacy, the report recommends focusing on forest health, forest programs in the Farm Bill and tax policies that promote keeping forests as forests. Fifty-six percent of forest land in America is privately owned, and 62 percent of that is owned by family forest owners.

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) works on-the-ground with families, teachers and elected officials to promote stewardship and protect our nation’s forest heritage. A commitment to the next generation unites our nationwide network of forest owners and teachers working to keep our forests healthy and our children well-prepared for the future they will inherit. AFF’s sustainable woodland system helps more than 95,000 family forest owners meet stringent third-party standards for managing nearly 26 million acres of forest land. And AFF works with tens of thousands of teachers each year, giving them a peer-reviewed, award-winning environmental education curriculum. For more information, visit www.forestfoundation.org.

The National Association of State Foresters is a non-profit organization representing the directors of forestry agencies in the states, territories and the District of Columbia of the United States. NASF promotes programs and activities that advance the practice of sustainable forestry, the conservation and protection of forestlands and associated resources and the establishment and protection of forests in the urban environment. For more information, visit www.stateforesters.org.

MEDIA CONTACTS: 
American Forest Foundation: Jennifer Jones, 202-463-5188, jjones@forestfoundation.org
National Association of State Foresters: Mary Margaret Plumridge, mplumridge@carousel30.com, 202-437-0518