From the Director's Desk: A Real Life Lorax

An elec­tron­ic bill­board cov­ers sev­er­al sto­ries and three sides of a build­ing in New York City’s Times Square, one of the busiest pub­lic spaces in the world. It com­mands the world’s atten­tion, espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant as sev­er­al glob­al envi­ron­men­tal con­fer­ences are being held in the city. It pro­claims: There’s a Face­book Group for Every­one” in ref­er­ence to Big Tree Seek­ers, a group that speaks for trees, espe­cial­ly those in the world’s old­est forests. 

One of the peo­ple fea­tured on the bill­board is con­nect­ed with the Lan­dis Arbore­tum, its exec­u­tive direc­tor, Fred Breglia.

Fred began his con­nec­tion with big trees at the age of five, when his moth­er took him to see an ancient oak tree over­look­ing the val­leys of Rich­mondville, NY. She explained that this old tree was a rel­ic, all that was left of a mighty for­est that once was. On that day, Fred chose his path in life: he would speak for the trees, espe­cial­ly big, old majes­tic ones.

He nev­er stopped look­ing for the next big tree, think­ing that there just might be a big­ger one wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered. His tree hunt­ing adven­tures were shared with his father dur­ing many back road and city dri­ves. Togeth­er they iden­ti­fied near­ly three-quar­ters of the cham­pi­on trees on the New York State Big Cham­pi­on Tree Reg­is­ter. Fred was rec­og­nized as one of the tree mea­sur­ers for New York State, becom­ing an offi­cial mea­sur­er for the Amer­i­can Forests Cadre Team in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

He became ever more ded­i­cat­ed to these arbo­re­al giants. He went on to co-found a group of experts known as New York Old Growth For­est Asso­ci­a­tion. The team sur­veyed old growth and advo­cat­ed the preser­va­tion of numer­ous forests and big trees. Per­haps the most impor­tant of their suc­cess­es was pre­vent­ing the log­ging of the Zoar Val­ley in Erie Coun­ty. This for­est is now rec­og­nized as one of New York State’s pre­mière old growth forests.

Fred and his col­league and men­tor Bruce Ker­sh­n­er co-wrote the New York State old growth pro­tec­tion bill, the only one of its kind in the coun­try. The bill was offi­cial­ly named the Bruce S. Ker­sh­n­er Her­itage Tree Preser­va­tion and Pro­tec­tion Act, in hon­or of this con­ser­va­tion­ist. The bill became effec­tive on Sep­tem­ber 4, 2008, and now serves as a pro­tec­tion for trees on pub­lic lands that are home to old growth. 

Over the years, Fred has spo­ken out on behalf of trees on WAMC, a Nation­al Pub­lic Radio affil­i­ate. He has also made many region­al radio broad­casts and pre­sen­ta­tions to orga­ni­za­tions in the Cap­i­tal Region, thus earn­ing him the moniker Tree Man.”

Even­tu­al­ly, Fred exper­i­ment­ed with a new type of plat­form on Face­book as a way to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­er big tree afi­ciona­dos. The site Big Tree Seek­ers” quick­ly grew, first nation­al­ly, then inter­na­tion­al­ly. Today, the group has over 35,000 fol­low­ers world­wide, mak­ing it the largest group of big tree advo­cates on the planet.

While it can’t boast a bill­board in Times Square, Fred main­tains anoth­er Face­book page ded­i­cat­ed to pro­mot­ing ancient forests and cham­pi­on trees, which cur­rent­ly has a quar­ter mil­lion fol­low­ers worldwide.

This is a time of unprece­dent­ed destruc­tion of our forests with dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for our plan­et. While we at Lan­dis do some small part by con­serv­ing our local trees, big and small, the stakes are ever high­er. Fred is famous for say­ing think local and act global.”

The Lorax spoke: Unless some­one like you cares a whole awful lot, noth­ing is going to get bet­ter.” Fred, too, speaks for the trees. For all of us. For the gen­er­a­tions to come.

Lis­ten. Act.

Fall 2019

Volume 37 , Number 3

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