Forest Advocates

Discover the stories of old-growth forests and the people helping to preserve them

In our culture there are awards for the best singers, the best actors, the best sports stars, the best scientists, and many other “bests,” but there was no award for the best forest advocates. The Old-Growth Forest Network decided that there should be such an award, so we created the Forest Advocate Award as a way to honor these special people.

Forest Advocate Award Recipients

Katharine Evans and Silvia Solaun

Katherine Evans has been active in environmental work most of her life. In the 1990's she and other concerned citizens formed "Friends of the Sparta Mountains" to fight a proposed town/residential/retail/golf course development in a High Conservation Value forest in New Jersey. The group collaborated with many other organizations and they were successful in stopping the development and establishing the state-owned Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Unfortunately, a forestry loophole was found and thirty years later the state of New Jersey started cutting and selling the largest oak trees on Sparta Mountain under the guise of the “Young Forest Initiative.”

Silvia Solaun was new to the issues of Sparta Mountain in 2016 but right away she knew that the proposed logging was not right. She partnered with Evans to reinvigorate Friends of Sparta Mountain. Together they involved ecologists and hired attorneys to help them make the case for preservation of Sparta Mountain. When the pair realized that the insidious logging of state lands was happening all over the state, they became New Jersey Forest Watch/Friends of Sparta Mountain. Silvia is currently director of that group. The pair gives forest tours, attends forestry conferences, and meets with political leaders in an effort to preserve New Jersey’s public forests.

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Kathryn Kolb

EcoAddendum Director and Master Naturalist, Kathryn Kolb holds over 30 years of field experience in forests and wild lands of the Southeast. Her fresh and insightful perspectives on our native forest make each EcoAddendum walk a new and interesting experience. She has collaborated for over 20 years on projects with many regional environmental groups including The Wilderness Society, Georgia Forestwatch, Trees Atlanta, Georgia Conservancy and Nature Conservancy. Previously, Kathryn was founder and director of Atlanta’s "Keeping It Wild" program, initiated through the Wilderness Society, where she designed and lead local and state-wide outings to natural places from 2004-2008. She served as Board Member of Georgia Forestwatch from 1996-2000, and she helped DeKalb County Commissioners produce a new Tree Ordinance for DeKalb County in 1998-99.

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Bob Leverett

Bob Leverett is the co-founder of the Native Tree Society, co-founder and President of Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest, chairperson for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Forest Reserves Scientific Advisory Committee, the co-author of the American Forests Champion Tree-Measuring Guidelines handbook. He is also co-author of several books including the Sierra Club Guide to Ancient Forests of the Northeast. Educated as an engineer, Bob is a recognized expert in the science of measuring trees for both science and sport. His association with old-growth forest discoveries and confirmations dates to the middle 1980s. This compelling interest placed him in the center of the early old growth preservation movements, which continue to this day.

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Will Cook

As Will Cook would say, even a satellite communications engineer can help save the planet. He believes that each of us can be an advocate by respecting nature in our own back yard - by replacing turf grass with tree groves and perennial gardens and wild meadows that, taken collectively, will transform the landscape and thereby our quality of life. And we can encourage our friends and neighbors to do the same. Will serves on the Town of Easton Tree Board, which has helped to map all of the trees in town, maintain them in a healthy condition, and raise funds to plant new ones. He is also a past President of the Adkins Arboretum Board of Trustees.

If this tree advocacy were not enough, Will Cook stepped forward when the Old-Growth Forest Network was just forming and volunteered to be the first treasurer. He has been keeping the books and the corporate documents in order while taking on many other vital tasks, such as creating our website. Will was chosen for the Old-Growth Forest Network’s Forest Advocacy Award because we could not have made it through our first three years of speaking for the forests without his help. In addition to his daily volunteerism, Will is also a member of the Legacy Grove – supporters of the Old-Growth Forest Network who have made arrangements for an end-of-life bequest.

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Nancy Stranahan

Nancy is the Director of the Arc of Appalachia, and was one of the non-profit’s two founders back in 1995. While directing the organization for the last 20 years, Nancy has cultivated a vigorous citizen advocacy network in Ohio (what she likes to call a tree-roots organization) to support the purchase of over a dozen new natural areas in southern Ohio.

Altogether, Nancy has personally led the charge to save over 4,500 acres of new natural areas and has participated in 80 separate real estate closings in her zest for Ohio to lead the way in Woodland Sprawl. The Arc’s headquarters, the 2200-acre Highlands Nature Sanctuary, is the Arc’s largest preserve region, and the area that Nancy and the Arc’s fledging board first concentrated their land preservation efforts in the non-profit’s early years. A few of the signature species protected within the Arc suite of nature preserves have been Henslow sparrows, cerulean warblers, golden star lilies, northern long-eared bats and timber rattlesnakes – just to name a few. Under her guidance, the Arc has also been instrumental in not only saving Native American Indian legacy sites, including Spruce Hill Earthworks and Junction Earthworks, but also managing and expanding the horizons for Fort Hill and Serpent Mound, working in partnership with the Ohio History Connection.

Nancy previously served as Chief Naturalist for Ohio State Parks with the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources; and operated Benevolence Café and Bakery in downtown Columbus’ city market for 20 years, where she promoted healthy and intentional food choices.

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Margaret Rasmussen

Margaret Rasmussen was born in Georgia but for a number of years she trekked forests across the U.S. in search of wildflowers. While working in an Oregon plant nursery, she even wrote horticultural articles on Georgia's native rhododendron and azaleas. When she returned to the State of her birth in 2004, she was overwhelmed by the beauty of the woods seemingly afire in the spring with flame azaleas. She enrolled in the State Botanical Garden of Georgia Certificate in Native Plants Program and learned even more about her lovely native forests.

When she became aware of economic development rapidly encroaching the region and the frustration of other residents who also wanted to conserve the irreplaceable tree canopy, she created the Redbud Project (2009) to promote awareness of the rich treasure trove of native plants from the carpet of cranefly orchids to the canopy of white oaks that convert the carbon dioxide we create into the oxygen we breathe.

Through the Redbud Project, Margaret organized volunteers and supporters to develop the Linwood Nature Preserve with Gainesville Parks and Recreation Dept. With thousands of hours of labor and thousands of dollars through in-kind services, they are creating a model for environmental conservation in the 30-acre urban forest that is conveniently located in the heart of the Gainesville community.

Margaret is also a good friend of the Old-Growth Forest Network – she helped us choose from and select the forest to represent Hall County in the Network. The world would be a greener place if we had more people like Margaret. As a small token of all she has done, and no doubt will continue to do, to maintain Georgia’s precious forest canopy and the plants that live beneath it, the Old-Growth Forest Network honored her with its Forest Advocate Award.

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Rebekah Paulsen

Rebekah Paulson of Blacksburg, VA was honored for the work she has done to save Stadium Woods on the campus of Virginia Tech. This woodland was being threatened by development and throughthe work of Rebekah and the Friends of Stadium Woods.It is no longer being threatened with that development but is still seeking protection –their work continues.

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Committee to Save the Greenbelt

The four members of the Committee to Save the Green Belt (Paul Downs, Yoni Siegel, Bill Rich and Rodney Roberts) were honored for the work they did over a 16-year period to save over 200 acres of woodlands of the remaining “Green Belt” which originally surrounded the town of Greenbelt, Maryland. The woods were threatened by many forms of development, but due to the work of the Committee to Save the Green Belt and the supporting citizens, the forest was finally placed under the protection of a city forest preserve ordinance and became The Greenbelt Forest Preserve. Pictured above is Paul Downs, the President of the Committee.

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