Flagstaff, AZ – Some nature enthusiast watch birds, others chase butterflies, a growing number look for this countries finest trees. Since 1940 a non-profit group called American Forest has sponsored the national register of big trees. It lists the largest known specimens of over 800 American trees.
A tree is designated a champion when its height, trunk circumference and crown spread exceed those of others. Like any contest the register prompts fierce competition. When a champion dies a new one must be found to take its place. It also lists dozens of species with no champ spurring hobbyists to take cameras and tape measurers into the field.
It's a great excuse to go hiking in remote canyons where big trees flourish says one tree hunter. Before heading out he explains, a hiker studies maps and forestry books to make an educated guess as to where big old trees may be hidden.
Arizona has the third largest number of champions, owing to its varied ecosystems and die hard searchers. From Alligator Juniper to You Leaf Willow there are 84 top trees in the state.
The big tree registry is used by its sponsor as an education tool showing how healthy tree support wildlife, purify water, trap pollutants and absorb carbon dioxide. These grandparent trees are also important symbols of environmental preservation. As their very existence shows that beautiful living things can remain healthy among us for centuries.