Virginia moved up to third place on the 2017 American Forests Champion Trees national register, with 74 national champion trees, after earning fifth place in 2016. Virginia gained 21 new champion and co-champion trees this year, more than any other state.

Much of this change can be credited to the efforts of Associate Professor Eric Wiseman, coordinator of the Virginia Big Tree Program, which is based in the college’s Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. Wiseman combed through records and nominated any tree he thought might be a contender. “We had a very significant change this year in our numbers. In several cases, we had trees on our Virginia register that we hadn’t realized were bigger than the current national champ,” he said.

This year, the Virginia Big Tree Program was honored by Scenic Virginia, a conservation organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of Virginia’s scenic beauty, with the Paul F. Revell Scenic Trees Award. Revell, one of the founders of and a driving force in developing and expanding the Virginia Department of Forestry’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, passed away in 2016.

“It was really special to me because I knew Paul well,” Wiseman said. “He was so passionate about making sure that trees and people can co-exist. He worked diligently to uplift just about any program associated with trees, and he was always quick to step up and speak for the Big Tree Program. He seemed to enjoy and appreciate big trees, but he also saw the value of the program for the general citizenry.”