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. Armed 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, who coordinates New Hampshire's Big Tree Program when he is not building boats. 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, including 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, who 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 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, 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, which 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 centuries.
"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, outside which the tree stands. "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.
"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

  • kennethh1-bur
    4/27/2017 - 11:13 a.m.

    There are some big trees in Pennsylvania, but none like that. I think the big trees are really cool and I like seeing pictures of them. Also think trees in New Hampshire is because of the cold weather rarely see trees at that region.

  • jeremyj-orv
    4/27/2017 - 11:43 a.m.

    Those tree's are crazy big and I would want to see them in real life i mean just look at how big they are wow wouldn't you wanna see em in real life to.

  • annakatew-bur
    4/27/2017 - 08:29 p.m.

    Trees are important in New Hampshire because they provide shelter animals, protect watersheds, and helps offset greenhouse gases. Also 38% of New Hampshire is made up of trees. I think it's really cool that people enjoy doing stuff like this because it is very important to preserve trees and I love nature.

  • lukes-bla
    4/28/2017 - 10:25 a.m.

    I could have never imagined that a tree would live for that long and still be that tall. I am not surprised one bit that the people of New Hampshire are proud of their great trees that have been living for centuries. Also, these trees really build to the beauty of the local area.

  • travise-bla
    4/28/2017 - 01:14 p.m.

    A family in New Hampshire has huge a huge tree in their yard and loves it. The tree in their front yard is are over 70 feet tall. The tree that they have is called a chestnut tree. These types of trees are usually known for their height and width. The chestnut tree in their front yard is not only the biggest in the state it is also the oldest tree in their state.

  • stevenk-bur
    4/30/2017 - 05:07 p.m.

    The reason why is because they could date back to the beginning of America. My great great grandfather planted an oak tree so his grandkids could see how big it was.

  • andreass-bur
    5/01/2017 - 08:30 a.m.

    Why are trees so important to New Hampshire ? They are huge and have a big history. I was told count a tree rings to see how old it is.

  • kyleec-bur
    5/01/2017 - 11:03 a.m.

    Trees are important to New Hampshire because they've been there for years and are important to people. I think trees are important too because some trees have been there for centuries and have a lot of history behind them.

  • jordanb1-bur
    5/01/2017 - 12:53 p.m.

    Trees are important in New Hampshire because they provide shelter, animals, protect watersheds, and helps offset greenhouse gases. They are also important because 38 percent of New Hampshire is made up of trees. I also enjoy nature and love having trees in my backyard.

  • grantl-bur
    5/01/2017 - 01:03 p.m.

    Trees are important in New Hampshire because they provide shelter animals, protect watersheds. The text says, "Trees feed and shelter animals, protect watersheds and provide a sink for carbon that helps to offset greenhouse gas emissions." To me, these trees should be protected since they have many uses.

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