Huge thanks to Marcus Selig, Director of NFF's Colorado Program and his wife Windy for sharing photos of their beautiful baby girl, Avie!
Before your little one even arrives, spend time relaxing and camping in your National Forests – try O’Haver Lake on the Salida District of the San Isabel National Forest.
The day before she’s born, help her summit her first 14er – drive her to the summit of Pikes Peak on the Pikes Peak Ranger District of the Pike National Forest.
During her first week of life, let her touch and feel the water that our National Forests provide – dangle her feet in Clear Creek, on the Leadville District of the San Isabel National Forest.
During her second week of life, ease her into hiking on your National Forests – take her on an easy stroll through Vail Village and along the shores of Gore Creek on the Eagle-Holy Cross District of the White River National Forest.
Once she’s a month old, take her on her first real hike – try Water Dog Lakes on the Salida District of the San Isabel National Forest (remember to include her on your trail log entry).
By her sixth week of life, she’s ready to go above 12,000’, take her to Hancock Lake and Chalk Creek pass on the Salida District of the San Isabel National Forest.
By the beginning of her second month, you may notice that she already HATES being inside. Get her back to your National Forests!!!
During her third month, she’s ready to go fly fishing at beautiful alpine lake –take her up to Boss Lake on the Salida District of the San Isabel National Forest.
Before she’s even four months old, you’ll notice that she’s becoming a Friend of the Forest -- she’ll be asking for more whitewater, studying the clouds and trees, and learning to nap in nature.
You may even notice her looking out the window, pining for the mountains……………..
Then comes the snow, and you can show your Friend of the Forest how winter creates all new opportunities for exploring your National Forests – take her skiing on the Gunnison District of the Gunnison National Forest and the Dillon District of the White River National Forest.
When the holiday season comes, be sure she joins you when you harvest your Christmas tree from the San Isabel National Forest.
It’s important to show her how to explore your National Forests in the winter using various modes of transportation – strap on your snowshoes, put her in your pack, and let her explore the trails of the Pagosa District of the San Juan National Forest.
Then, when she starts to get too cold from all of the skiing and snowshoeing, don’t forget to take her to the lower elevations to warm up. Explain to her that the snow that she’s been playing in on her National Forests is also the source of the river she is now lounging beside.
Check back in another 5 months to see how NFF’s newest Friend of the Forest spent the remainder of her first year exploring your National Forests!
It’s easy to forget just how much everything in nature is connected. We may joke about the “circle of life” and the “food chain,” but these simple concepts couldn’t be more applicable to the whitebark pine, Pinus albicaulis. Without the Clark’s Nutcracker, Nucifraga columbiana, the whitebark pine would struggle to reproduce, meaning that the perpetuation of an entire tree species depends largely on the habits of one small bird.
Whitebark pines grow throughout the Northern Rockies of the United States, the Southern Rockies of Canada, and in the Cascades and Sierras. Thriving in harsh and rocky areas, they can be found at tree line in subalpine regions, often exposed to high winds and weather. In optimal conditions, whitebark pine can grow up to 60 feet, but atop a mountain, it’s not unusual to see much shorter, gnarled looking trees growing close to the ground.
Small, dark purple cones distinguish whitebark pine from similar species. Compact and tough, the cones are adapted to survive in the harsh condition where the whitebark lives and are covered with thick scales that protect vulnerable seeds. However, unlike most pinecones, the whitebark’s do not open upon drying, instead requiring the scales to break apart before the seeds are released.
Fortunately for the whitebark, the Clark’s Nutcracker is a ready and willing assistant – the birds crack the cones to harvest the large, nutritious seeds, which they then bury in caches to retrieve later. A single Clark’s Nutcracker can hide anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 seeds in a year. Thanks to these caches, many of which go unretrieved, whitebark pine seedlings have an improved chance at life.
But the Clark’s Nutcrackers aren’t the only species to rely on whitebark pine, nor the only species to help them out.
- Squirrels also store the pinecones in middens, likewise breaking up the cones and releasing the seeds.
- Bears then raid the middens consuming the nutritious seeds as primary source of pre-hibernation food. Some seeds simply pass through the bears and are deposited with a healthy mound of natural fertilizer far from their original location, improving genetic diversity and allowing the whitebark to “move” farther than it ever could on its own.
Simply put, without whitebark pine trees, many alpine ecosystems would not thrive.
Close Tie to Water
Since whitebark pines dominate the high alpine community, they play a pivotal role in the hydrology of the drainages over which they preside. Growing on the wide ridges of mountains, whitebark pines act as a snow fence, accumulating high elevation snow. Over the long alpine winter, these piles can be substantial. Because they take longer to melt in the spring, the piles play an important role in extending stream flow periods throughout the entire watershed.
Unfortunately, this crucial species faces many threats. White pine blister rust, a fungal disease from Europe, has infected many whitebark stands across its range. Fortunately, a small number of trees have a genetic resistance to the disease, so public agencies, like the U.S. Forest Service, have been working to harvest rust-resistant cones in the hopes of growing rust-resistant trees.
Additionally, warming temperatures caused by climate change have allowed the ever-present mountain pine beetle to colonize the high elevation zones where whitebark live. Trees already suffering from blister rust as especially susceptible to the relatively new threat of pine beetles, exacerbating an already serious issue.
Decades of wildfire suppression have impacted the whitebark pine too. Infrequent, low-level wildfire cycles historically helped remove fire-intolerant species such as subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce from competing with whitebark seedlings. Absent fire, these trees grow faster and better than whitebark pines, ultimately converting whitebark forests to fir and spruce forests. As well, fire helped remove older whitebark pines that are more susceptible to beetle and white pine blister rust, thus slowing the spread of each.
How You Can Help
Despite this enormous effort, reforestation initiatives do exist. The NFF is working with the U.S. Forest Service to plant whitebarks on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest as part of our Treasured Landscapes conservation campaign.
- Plant a Tree – Without heading into the cold winter, you can plant trees on your National Forests.
- Volunteer with a local conservation organization – From wildlife monitoring to a river clean-up, on-the-ground partners are always looking for forest lovers like yourself.
- Sign-up for tree-mail - Our monthly newsletter is full of the latest forest news and fun articles to help plan your next adventure.
- Try a new winter activity on your National Forests – Got some cabin fever? Head out and try your skill at cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, both are very doable for beginners.
- Enter our photo contest – Submit your photos of Wilderness Areas on our National Forests for a chance to be featured in our upcoming issue of Your National Forests magazine. And you could also win some great NFF swag.
- Like us on Facebook – See beautiful photos of our National Forests, get the latest updates and join the community for friends of the Forest on Facebook.
- Become a member of the NFF – as a member you’ll receive our semi-annual magazine Your National Forests and stay up to date on NFF and forest news.
- Send us your thoughts about our National Forests. We love to hear from you. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Support one of our partners – their generosity allows us to do what we do.
- Create your own community of Friends of the Forest – pick up trash, help a newbie learn how to Leave No Trace, introduce a friend to the joys of our National Forests,
- Take a kid out on the forest. Help nurture our future forest stewards.
- Commit to learning a new sport or skill this year – try stand up paddleboarding, experiment with photography, learn the names of the ten most common trees in your area, try winter camping. The opportunities are endless and where better to learn them than your backyard forests?
- Tell a friend about the NFF and why you’re a part of the community.
- Create a fun National Forest challenge for the year: visit forests you’ve never been to, hike the three highest peaks on a National Forest nearest you, sleep outside without a tent, fish in six different lakes or rivers during the summer. Then share your story with us! You could be featured on the blog.
National Forests and the Winter Olympics. Like most of us, you’re thinking there’s probably not much of a connection between the two right? In fact, there are many connections between the Winter Olympics and our National Forests.
From past Olympic medalists who first learned to ski and ride at resorts located on National Forests, to Sochi Games’ competitors training on National Forests in the hopes of winning Olympic glory, to a National Forest hosting the Winter Games in 1960, there is a long history of our National Forests playing an important role in the Winter Olympics.
National Forests, An Olympic Training Ground
With 122 downhill ski areas on National Forests, along with many Nordic training areas, it’s not a surprise that many Olympians train and ski on our public lands. Downhill skier Lindsey Vonn, gold medalist at the 2010 games, moved to Vail, Colorado on the White River National Forest when she was 11 to train. Gold medal winner Picabo Street grew up skiing at Sun Valley on Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest. Snowboarder and Olympic megastar Shaun White spent many of his early days riding at Bear Mountain on California’s San Bernardino National Forest.
Current Olympians who will be competing in Sochi in 2014, Erik Bjornsen, Sadie Bjornsen and Brian Gregg, train for their Nordic events in the Methow Valley on Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (an NFF Treasured Landscapes conservation campaign site). Sadie and other skiers have also trained at the Thomas Training Center on Alaska’s Chugach National Forest.
UPDATED: Alpine skier Julia Mancuso won a bronze medal in the super combined at Sochi. Originially from Squaw Valley, Julia is the most decorated American woman in alpine skiing in Olympic history.
No doubt many other former Olympic competitors and current hopefuls make use of the exceptional training opportunities our National Forests provide.
1960 Winter Olympics
In 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon opened the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, on the Tahoe National Forest. Four years prior, Squaw consisted of one chair lift and a fifty-room lodge. It was the hope of Alexander Cushing, a local homeowner in the area, that Squaw presented a blank slate for the development of a world-class ski resort.
In four years, the California Olympic Commission built an Olympic Village and significantly expanded infrastructure to support the games. The facilities were built close to each other to evoke an intimate feel. The steep slopes of the area created some of the most difficult skiing in Olympic history.
Today, Squaw Valley is one of the largest ski areas in the country and generations of skiers have no doubt imagined winning their own Olympic medal as they race down Squaw’s slopes.
As 230 athletes travel to Sochi this month to represent the United States, every day more than 193 million acres of our National Forests stand tall to continue the legacy of conservation.