This summer, our board of directors approved a new strategic plan
for American Forests. While I realize that most strategic plans are
hardly earth shattering stuff, this one is different. Our new plan
continues to sharpen our focus in some very exciting ways.
The new plan establishes American Forests even more firmly as a
conservation organization focused on forests as vital ecosystems that
provide important benefits for the health of the planet and its
inhabitants, While we will continue the critical work of planting
millions of trees each year, our activities will also expand to more
fully encompass issues like water (more that half of our drinking water
comes from forests), wildlife habit, the effects of invasive plants and
insects, managing the impacts of climate change, and caring for the
urban forest ecosystems where most of us live.
We plan to increase our focus on environmental science and forest
ecotogy. This underscores the importance of grounding our work in sound
science, as well as supporting, advocating for, and spotlighting
important research that helps all of us better understand the many roles
forests play in the health of our planet.
One new section of the plan addresses our goals. The goals
described in these five statements will, in effect, become a guide for
all our work, ensuring that our efforts are always focused on what we
believe are the most important outcomes and that our donors’ money
is spent in ways that achieve the maximum impact.
GOAL 1: Threatened forests restored to health.
Today, many forests are in danger Major threats include climate
change, invasive plant species, insects, disease, significant increases
in wildfire, and conversion of forested land to non-forest uses. While
we will be addressing these threats generally, we will also focus on
specific ecosystems that are profoundly threatened right now. For
example, in 2012, we will launch a major campaign to address the
devastation in the forests of the Western Mountains, a result of the
mountain pine beetle and a disease called blister rust. Our work will
include restoring damaged areas, as well as working with partners to
bring attention to the issue and to support research to strengthen
keystone species like white bark pine.
GOAL 2: Healthy and expanding forest cover in both urban and rural
Forest health is ctosely related to the health of the planet. To
this end, we will be planting an additional 25 million trees over the
next five years, adding to the 37 million we have already planted. We
will also expand our efforts in urban forests, working with the U.S.
Forest Service and partners across the country to spotlight cities and
towns that are nurturing and expanding their tree canopy and educating
citizens and policymakers alike about the remarkable benefits of urban
trees and forests.
GOAL 3: High priority for environmental benefits in the management
of public and private forests.
Forests provide a host of services for humans and all other living
things. They produce oxygen, strip pollutants from the air, provide
animal habitat, filter drinking water, and remove CO2 from the
atmosphere. Quite simply, we can’t live without them. Yet forests
are typically valued more for wood and pulp than for the remarkable
environmental benefits they provide when they are cared for and left
standing. Maximizing these environmental benefits will become a key
criterion in our selection of forest restoration projects. We will also
be working with universities to further research related to measuring
and enhancing the environmental benefits of forests and trees.
GOAL 4: Recognition that healthy forests are vital to life.
While most people probably realize that trees are good for the
environment, many do not have a full understanding of just how important
forests are for the health of our planet and for all living things. To
achieve progress toward this goal, we will be ramping up our public
education activities to young people, adults, communities, and
GOAL 5: Policymakers address major threats to forests proactively.
Our final goal is to create a climate in which policymakers are not
merely knowledgeable about the threats to our forests but take timely
action to address them. For American Forests, this means mobilizing
like-minded people to take action, educating and communicating with
policymakers, and working collaboratively to evolve practical, tong-term
Taken together, the plan to achieve these Five goals is a bold
declaration of what we stand for and where we are headed. We are glad to
have you with us on this journey.
BY SCOTT STEEN, CEO