About the Alaska State Register of Big Trees…

Alaskans proud of their trees can participate in a conservation movement to locate, appreciate and protect the biggest of each native tree species, whether they be national or state candidates, or champions in their own municipalities. Under the auspices of the American Forests’ (AF) National Big Tree Program (www.americanforests.org/bigtrees), in association with The Davey Tree Expert Company, I have created the Alaska Big Tree Program, and the akbigtreelist.org is the online display of current state champions.

My name is Don Bertolette, and I am Alaska’s Big Tree Coordinator, as selected by AF’s Big Tree Program, and I’m happy to serve you in your efforts to bring fame and recognition to trees that you have found and think merit nomination to local, state, and/or national registries. This site is a work in progress, and will soon be updated, to include individual champion tree registries for municipal nominations.

If you’ve a contender at the local, state, and/or national levels, nominations submitted will be confirmed by myself, or a recognized professional in your area. Because of their superlative nature, they deserve careful measurement. For American Forests has recently updated their measuring guidelines and a digital version is available at: http://www.americanforests.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/AF-Tree-Measuring-Guidelines_LR.pdf.  Instructions on how to measure your nominee occur in the online Measuring Guidelines handbook in the Chapters ‘Circumference’; ‘Height’; and ‘Crown Spread’.

The Alaska Big Tree List has had prior listings going back to the 1950’s. All but a few couldn’t be verified, and will be replaced with new nominations. The Alaska Big Tree List website shows prior archival champions in a “ghosted” font (these would be species eligible for replacement), with current champions in bold font.

My own background is one of big trees. I am a retired Restoration Forester (while serving as a vegetation program manager for Grand Canyon National Park’s Science Center). From high school years on, my free time was spent in the mountain forests and wildernesses of Arizona, California, Kentucky, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Montana. Most of my work time was spent with various federal land management agencies (Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and the National Park System). Wherever I went during those years, I made a point of backpacking and hiking as many forest and wilderness trails as I could. Because of the protected nature of wildernesses, I had occasion to visit relatively undisturbed native forests, many of them in optimal environmental niches, expressing near optimum genetic potential.

While my graduate work took place in Massachusetts (not particularly well-known for it’s undisturbed forests, my thesis [Donald R. Bertolette, MS Forestry, 1993. “Identification of multi-spectral and textural signatures of old-growth forests from remotely-sensed images of northwestern Massachusetts”] has allowed me to also see “the big picture” for old-growth forest ecosystems.

It was during my time in Massachusetts that I became involved with what was to become the Eastern Native Tree Society. That has since evolved into the Native Tree Society with sub-groupings of ENTS (Eastern Native Tree Society, pun intended), WNTS (Western Native Tree Society) and extensions to much of European forum members. Like AF, NTS wants to celebrate ‘all that trees are’. And because we are talking about superlative trees of native or naturalized species exclusively, these champions deserve high order measurement techniques. One of the NTS’s primary missions is to elevate tree measurement accuracy, enabling a robust database sufficient for academic research.