Thursday, June 8, 2017

Becky Nourse, Acting Regional Forester, at the Alaska Arbor Day Celebration in Juneau

 (The following remarks are from a speech Becky Nourse, Acting Regional Forester gave at a Arbor Day celebration in Juneau on May 15, 2017)

Good afternoon, I am Becky Nourse the Acting Regional Forester for the Alaska Region of the Forest Service, and you might say my job has a lot to do with trees.
I want to thank the Juneau Urban Forestry Partnership and Juneau Garden Club for hosting Alaska’s Official Arbor Day Celebration this year.
Arbor Day celebrations first began in a Spanish village in 1594. The tradition was furthered when in the 1800s, a priest, according to chronicles, “convinced of the importance of trees for health, hygiene, decoration, nature, environment and customs, decides to plant trees to give a festive air.” He drafted a manifesto in defense of the trees to spread the love and respect for nature.
The first Arbor Day in the U.S. was held in 1872 in Nebraska City, Nebraska, when an estimated  1 million trees were planted. To celebrate the 100th anniversary, the Arbor Day Foundation was formed.  In 1990, the Forest Service began working with the foundation to plant trees in America’s national forests in need of reforestation. The Foundation, through the generous donations of its members and corporate partners, has since helped plant 50 million trees in national, state, and county public forests.  
We are here today surrounded by one of Alaska’s National Forests. The Tongass National Forest, at over 17 million acres, encompasses Alaska’s Southeast Panhandle, and is the world’s largest temperate rainforest. It is a land of spectacular beauty and provides habitat for all five species of Pacific salmon, and some of the largest concentrations of brown bears and bald eagles in North America. The Chugach National Forest is nearly 5.4 million acres, and is the most northerly national forest, located in Southcentral Alaska from Prince William Sound to the Kenai Peninsula. The Chugach is the home of rivers teaming with salmon and trout, the flyway and nesting grounds of millions of migratory birds, and is a recreational paradise for boaters, hikers, and sportsmen.
Alaska’s forests are an amazing place that allow people to reconnect with themselves and nature. They are a place where Alaska Natives connect with their land and culture. They offer abundant opportunities for recreation; connecting people to the outdoors. They are also the economic foundation of many of Alaska’s rural communities: providing timber, jobs, and clean water for healthy fisheries and mariculture industries; providing energy through woody biomass and hydropower; and minerals and other natural resources; and act as a buffer against climate change. The Forest Service sustainably manages the forests to provide all of these opportunities for the public.
Alaska’s forests are made up of many species of trees, one of which is Alaska’s State tree, the Sitka Spruce. We’re also fortunate to have Yellow Cedar and Western Red Cedar, trees that are dense and resistant to rot from all our Southeast rain. These trees are used to build ceremonial tribal houses; and totems which tell the stories and history of the local people.
As Alaska celebrates its Arbor Day, we think back to the origins of our first celebration in 1966. The first ceremonial tree planting was a Jack Pine planted by Governor Egan, Senator Egan’s father, in memory of Governor Frank Heintzleman, at the city museum. It was a fitting tribute because Governor Heintzleman began his career and his service to Alaska as a member of the Forest Service. He was Alaska’s fourth Regional Forester, serving in that role from 1937 to 1953. He balanced the need to use timber and power development for economic growth with the public’s desire to manage national forests for recreation and wilderness values.
Today, our forests are still managed for multiple use, which helps to sustain our rural communities. The region is providing services and natural experiences for one million annual visitors to the Tongass and Chugach. There is a surge in new proposals for renewable energy, including hydroelectric and biomass, which aid remote communities that still depend on diesel as a heat source. Both the Chugach and the Tongass are designated as Children’s Forests, actively engaging thousands of youth annually. Significant investments are being made for science,  research and education. We are also working with the State of Alaska, Sealaska’s Haa Aani and the Spruce Root Community Development Fund on workforce development and natural resource job training on Prince of Wales Island.
We take heart in the seeds planted in the first Arbor Day celebrations – as the forests provide us with unequalled opportunities for growth: to connect with ourselves, our families and culture, and with nature. And to enjoy all the abundance that Alaska, its forests, and its trees have to offer. With Alaska’s forests, OPPORTUNITY GROWS HERE.


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