Preserving “Champion Trees” in Nevada to leave a lasting legacy

This year, Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) member Natasha Stott has been working with the Nevada Division of Forestry this year as a program assistant to their Urban & Community Forestry Program. She also works as a Program Assistant at Sierra Nevada Alliance, where she helps coordinate the SNAP program.

During her term, Natasha has been helping the Nevada Division of Forestry develop their  ‘Big Tree Program.’ The Big Tree Program finds and records the biggest trees of each species found throughout the state of Nevada. Most states in the country have adopted similar programs, and the biggest trees, called “Champions,” are determined through a point system designated by American Forests.

Natasha has been working on this project over the past few months and will continue it through the summertime. She works to update the program data, taking measurements of the existing champion trees in Washoe County and around the Tahoe basin. Natasha engages with the residential owners of these champion trees and is also developing a GIS map that will showcase all of the tree locations in the state. In addition, she’s developing tools that will make this program and its related information more accessible to community members.


Natasha is partnering up with Rod Haulenbeek of NDF to complete the re-measuring of tree data for this project. Rod has worked on the Big Tree Program for many years and has extensive experience working with trees as well as limitless knowledge on many other topics. He has developed tree tours that contain many champion trees, such as the University of Nevada Reno’s campus.

This project is a public engagement program working to educate community members about the trees growing in Nevada as well as how to properly care for them. Trees aren’t just essential pieces to the natural environment but also essential to where people live. The many benefits associated with trees are vital in urban areas, especially with the increasing impacts of climate change. Reno is one of the fastest-warming cities in the nation, and having a large tree canopy can help mitigate negative impacts such as the heat island effect.

The Big Tree Program seeks to engage with the public and educate them about the many tree species that Nevada supports. Protecting trees is essential as they are an integral part of the ecosystems in the Sierra. It’s equally important to educate communities about the value of trees to help motivate people to take care of the trees in their neighborhoods. Proper tree education and outreach can also increase forest fire preparedness in Sierra communities, such as in WUI areas (Wildland Urban Interfaces).

Funding for SNAP is supported by Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s Nature Fund and Martis Fund – a collaborative project of Martis Camp landowners, DMB/Highlands Group (the developers of Martis Camp), Mountain Area Preservation Foundation (MAP), and Sierra Watch. Sierra Nevada Alliance is a proud grantee of AmeriCorps and California Volunteers, Office of the Governor.

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