The U. S. Forest Service, with partner organizations the National Association of State Foresters and the American Forest Foundation, have announced the U.S. celebration of the official United Nations International Year of Forests 2011. The theme of the U.S. campaign is “Celebrate Forests. Celebrate Life.”
Trees and forests provide a wealth of social, economic, environmental, aesthetic, cultural and health benefits. Because of forests, millions of Americans have access to clean drinking water, an abundance of recreational opportunities, cleaner air, and countless jobs. Urban trees and forests also make important contributions by enhancing neighborhood livability, increasing home prices, and reducing household energy use and the effects of climate change. In short, trees and forests improve the quality of life in urban and rural areas alike.
“The International Year of Forests provides an excellent platform to increase awareness of the connections between healthy forests, ecosystems, people and economies,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It is also an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments, reach out to new audiences, and work with partners across all landscapes.”
The U.N. launch of the international year took place February 2nd and 3rd at the ninth session of the U.N. Forum on Forests in New York City, in which many foreign dignitaries and ministers participated. The program included high-level roundtable discussions, media activities, film screenings, the issuance of the U.N. commemorative stamp series and other side events. During the official U.N. launch, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell participated in the high-level roundtable discussion on “Forests for People.”
This year-long, world-wide celebration is expected to raise awareness and inspire actions to sustainably manage and conserve the world’s trees and forests. The U.N. objectives are to: reverse the loss of forest cover, enhance economic, social and environmental benefits, increase the area of sustainably managed forests and to mobilize increased financial resources.
The U.S. celebration kicked off February 2nd with a welcome reception hosted by the U.S. Forest Service and MillionTreesNYC – a partnership between the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the non-profit New York Restoration Project – at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell highlighted the importance of working in partnership across jurisdictions, boundaries, and landscapes to help reverse forest loss, and to increase the health and productivity of forests domestically and globally. The reception also provided an opportunity for the United States to highlight its urban forestry work to a broader international audience.
Within the United States, including its eight territories and the District of Columbia, the official campaign will be celebrated on national, regional and local levels. Using the tagline “Celebrate Forests. Celebrate Life.” the celebration will increase awareness and understanding of the value of America’s forests. The connection of forests to health will be communicated through four major themes: clean air and water, ecosystem health, economic health and community and personal health.
The Forest Service will incorporate the International Year of Forests theme into many of the Forest Service’s annual public events such as Earth Day, Arbor Day, National Get Outdoors Day, National Public Lands Day, Weeks Act 100thAnniversary Commemorations or other community gatherings during 2011.
The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) is expected to launch an interactive website in early March to house all U.S.-based information, including a master events calendar, event host toolkit, and news on the campaign.
Project Learning Tree, the American Forest Foundation’s environmental education program has worked with teachers and students to compile a Forest Exchange Box to show the unique characteristics of their state forests. Six of these boxes are now on display at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and all 50 boxes will be on display in Washington D.C. in March.
For more information on the International Year of Forests 2011, visit: