New discovery on the world’s largest Eastern White Pine with Erik Danielson and Gathering Growth Foundation

Caroline Knapp

1% for the Planet Environmental Partner Gathering Growth Foundation is helping connect people to the story of the Bigfoot Pine—a record-breaking tree recently discovered in the Adirondacks.

Gathering Growth Foundation

At the start of his career, Brian Kelley photographed over 140 Champion trees for American Forests, another 1% for the Planet Environmental Partner. In 2019, Kelley established his own organization, Gathering Growth Foundation. With the mission to visually preserve the legacy of significant trees and forests in the U.S., Kelley’s artistry spans the realms of photography, videography and audio recordings—weaving a tapestry that celebrates the arboreal giants. To date, Kelley has documented over 500 trees and forests across the country.

Photography by Casey Steffens

According to a USDA document and National Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) guidelines, trees must stand for 100-160 years and be 12-20 inches minimum in diameter to be considered old-growth trees. Benefits from these trees range from carbon sequestration to air quality increase—and are even more powerful in old-growth forests.

On Earth Day 2022, Biden put out an executive order to restore and conserve old-growth forests on Federal lands. With newfound data on the importance of the forests, it’s more important than ever to conserve the trees that remain.

Finding the Bigfoot Pine

The unsuspected Bigfoot Pine was found in July with the help of Matt Kane, Erik Danielson, Brain Kelley and Casey Steffens. What began as a quest for tall trees by Danielson ended in the discovery of the world’s largest Eastern White Pine by wood volume.

Photography by Casey Steffens

Naturalists Matt Kane and Erik Danielson were in conversation around the Adirondacks Big Blowdown of 1950—a storm that damaged at least a fourth of the park’s forest coverage. Adirondack Park Agency reports that the mountain range lost millions of standing timber board-feet, hitting old-growth forests the hardest. 

In hopes of finding tall trees, Danielson used LiDAR data to analyze the canopy in the area of assumed destruction. The remote sensing system found 500 acres of growth, and sparked a journey that led to the Eastern White Pine’s discovery.

Danielson connected with Steffens and Kelley to explore the site, take measurements of the trees and document the trip. Upon their arrival, the three confirmed record-breaking measurements—the pine stood 151.5 ft tall and was 1,450 cubic feet in volume. Its size indicates it has sequestered roughly 35.7 tons of CO2 in its lifetime so far (equivalent to the emissions from driving 350,000 miles in a car). To commemorate the tree’s elusiveness, the three nicknamed the tree “Bigfoot Pine”.

Photography by Brian Kelley

Take Action

The pine is on protected lands, so will hopefully continue standing for generations to come. Learn more about Gathering Growth Foundation, find old-growth near you and start your environmental giving journey today!

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