These folks like their big trees
These folks like their big trees In this March 24, 2017 photo, Kevin Martin, state coordinator for New Hampshire's Big Tree Program, measures the circumference of a European Beech tree in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Michael Casey)
These folks like their big trees
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A horse chestnut tree towers over a busy street in New Hampshire's main port city, Portsmouth. The tree is known for its history more than its height. Legend has it that William Whipple planted it after returning in 1776 from signing the Declaration of Independence.
But at nearly 70 feet tall, it is also big for a chestnut. That is what brought Keven Martin out one rainy morning. He came with tape to measure its circumference and a laser finder to calculate its height. Martin wanted to find out whether the tree remained the state's biggest horse chestnut. The tree has held the title for decades.
"It is not only the biggest, but it's been around a long time," said Martin. He coordinates New Hampshire's Big Tree Program. More than 700 champions in the state have been crowned. And while there may not be any redwoods out here, the state is home to 10 national champions. They include the country's biggest black spruce and American mountainash.
"People appreciate a big tree more. And they have a lot of history to them. People have a connection with them, more so," said Martin. He has written a book on the big trees found on public lands. "They are just a lot more impressive when you see them in the woods or driving by."
The state's Big Tree Program was started in 1950. It has been part of a nationwide network. The network is run by the conservation group American Forests. That group has logged some 721 champions across the country. Two hundred species still don't have a title. The effort today is driven by tree lovers like Martin. It was created to raise awareness about protecting forest from threats like development and forest pests. It also offers a way to better understand why some species grow so large.
They spend their free time scanning highways, historic sites and the state's hiking trials for the next big one.
To find a champion, an owner starts by measuring its circumference. The owner sends that data to the tree program. Then, Martin or another volunteer goes out to measure its circumference, height and crown, as well as its overall conditions. From those figures, a point total is created. Winners earn a place in the big tree list. The owner gets a certificate. Some even have their photos taken alongside the tree.
"It's like finding a rare tiger. There is a segment of the population that really connects with trees," said Ian Leahy. He is director of urban forest programs for American Forests. He coordinates its American Biggest Trees program. "There is a just a deep, deep passion. In some ways, it's just out being in nature. It's like hunting. But without killing anything."
But it's not just the thrill of finding a big tree. These forest giants serve as role models of sorts. They help the public understand the outsized role trees play in nature. Trees feed and shelter animals. They protect watersheds and provide a sink for carbon that helps to offset greenhouse gas emissions.
They are especially important in a state like New Hampshire. Eighty-three percent of it is forested.
"By starting to look at one tree and appreciate it, people start to understand their connection with the outdoors and nature," said Mary Tebo Davis. She is a natural resources field specialist. She works at the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. It runs the big tree program.
The big trees, like the horse chestnut in Portsmouth, are also popular because they are tied to a historical event or have proven so resilient. Some have survived for hundreds of years.
"You can't imagine the number of people who had their picture taken under that tree, groups of kids who encircle the tree," said Barbara Ward. She is the director and curator of the historic Moffatt-Ladd House. The big horse chestnut tree stands outside the house. "It's such a nice thing for children in particular. But even adults are just awed by the idea that a living thing has been here that long."
Martin was done measuring, and Ward looked on anxiously. She wanted to learn whether the horse chestnut had done enough to keep its title. More precise measuring techniques meant the tree had lost some height. But it appeared to have made up the difference by increasing its circumference. That is the measure to determine how big around it is.
"It's still a champion. Yep," Martin said after he was able to tally up all the numbers. "It still beat out all the horse chestnuts in the state."

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Why are trees so important to New Hampshire?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • lylaer
    4/19/2017 - 12:56 p.m.

    I think the trees are so important because if we didn't have trees we would not be able to get oxygen. If we don't have oxygen we cold not breath. Another reason is if we didn't have trees there wouldn't have tree records or this paragraph. One more reason why trees are so important is there wold be no wood's were animals live or no paper, we need trees to live. That's why I think trees are important.

    • juliewr
      4/19/2017 - 01:00 p.m.

      If the trees were gone there would be no more wood and all the forest animals would have no home and would all be captured.

    • pheanyxmr
      4/20/2017 - 01:00 p.m.

      The best thing ever 5 star.

  • juliewr
    4/19/2017 - 12:57 p.m.

    The reason why the trees are so important to New Hampshire is because the have a lot of history to the state. In my opinion the trees are very important and I don't even live there. I think that it would be cool if big trees are in every state and if you can get in the trees branches. I think that it would be a nice idea for the state to move some of the trees to different areas of the world. Another reason why the trees are so important to New Hampshire is because almost all of the state is forest. The trees also give us oxygen. That is only a few reason why the trees are so important to New Hampshire.

  • daxbr
    4/19/2017 - 12:58 p.m.

    Trees are so important to them because that special tree that they have is so special to them because the trees there probably have fruit on them.And then someone probably tasted the fruit and made them special.So all the other trees are probably special to them to so that makes all the trees special.Also maybe if the special tree that they have dies it will probably just grow back. And probably if the special tree grows back Martin will have to measure it again.

    • juliewr
      4/20/2017 - 12:51 p.m.

      The tree has a lot of history to the state and that why it is so important to the state.

  • landonfr
    4/19/2017 - 12:59 p.m.

    Trees are important because trees produce oxygen for us humans. Also because without them we wouldn't be able to breathe. Another reason is without trees where else would we get shade? People need trees to make: paper, wood, beds. People need trees for reasons like that.

    • serenitycr
      4/20/2017 - 12:56 p.m.

      Trees give animals oxygen to.

  • allysacr
    4/19/2017 - 01:00 p.m.

    I think tree's are importent to New Hampshire because it's been around for a long time. Also if you want your name in the paper for example like if your name was Allysa and then your last name it would be in the paper. And I guess a lot of people that live in New Hampshire want to be
    famous. I know I wouldn't because I think it would be scary. But enough of that think what would happen if they got rid of all the tree's one they can't breath,two a lot of animals would die and,three they need fire wood for camping. We all need tree's we can't live without them. By: Allysa Anonymous

  • serenitycr
    4/19/2017 - 01:00 p.m.

    Trees are important to New Hampshire because of a legend that William whipped planted the tree after returning in 1776 from signing the Declaration of Independence.Another reason is the history behind the trees.Thats what the text says.I think the trees are important because they give us oxygen and some trees can be really pretty.Also that can give animal shelter for a example a bird would live in a tree.

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