U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is the first to come from Alaska; Companion Trees From Tongass
By MARY KAUFFMAN
November 18, 2015
The tree leaving the Chugach National Forest, followed by a caravan of caretakers - October 27, 2015
The Chugach National Forest in partnership with nonprofit Choose Outdoors is bringing this special gift from Alaska to Washington, D.C. for the 2015 season with the help of Lynden Transport and its nationally recognized driver John Schank.
"This historic journey is only possible with the help of strong community partnerships throughout Alaska and beyond state lines," said Bruce Ward, founder of Choose Outdoors. "We're grateful for the time and resources Lynden Transport is providing to help make this the best tour to date."
"There is no one better to transport this precious cargo – the People's Tree – than our veteran driver John Schank," says Lynden Transport President Paul Grimaldi. "Lynden is an Alaska-based company and our roots run deep in the state. We are proud to be entrusted with the delivery of the national Christmas tree and delighted to support the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree tour which provides communities with the opportunity to celebrate the spirit of the season. John will do a great job – just as he does every day he drives for Lynden."
Lynden Transport's nationally recognized driver John Schank
Schank was recognized as the 2014 Driver of the Year by the Alaska Trucking Association (ATA) and received a letter of commendation from former Alaska Governor Sean Parnell for 37 years of accident-free driving over the treacherous Dalton Highway linking Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Schank has logged 5 million miles on the highway – more than any other driver in history.
Due to limit space and public safety at the Chugach tree location, the Oct. 27th ceremony was an invite only event. Following a brief ceremony and a blessing by John Ross from the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, the tree was felled by Chugach National Forest Certified C-Faller, Dan Osborn. Two massive cranes supported the tree which was carefully lowered onto a specially designed flatbed trailer with cribbing designed to support the trunk and branches. The total truck and trailer length is over 80-feet long.
Taken on October 27, 2015 - Tree cutting in the Chugach National Forest.
Taken on October 30, 2015 - The tree and trailer on its was to be shipped from Alaska to Tacoma, Washington
Later, the tree will be placed on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol as a reminder of the season; a time of year that inspires reflection, hope, and celebration. On December 3, 2015, the National Park Foundation and National Park Service will present the 93rd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Popular entertainers and a United States military band will add to the celebratory evening when the President of the United States lights the National Christmas Tree and brings a message of peace to the nation and world.
“It is a great honor for the People’s Tree to be chosen from the Chugach National Forest.” says Senator Lisa Murkowski. “This tree, this gift from the great land, is much more than a tree. It is an opportunity to showcase Alaska and our amazing resources. It is a symbol of the importance of the land where we live and with this tree we are sharing a piece of our land with the nation.”
“Not only does the Alaskan landscape sustain and inspire people; Alaskans rely on the Chugach National Forest and other public lands for their livelihood, food, shelter, recreation, and inspiration. We are proud that this tree comes from our forest.” says Terri Marceron Chugach National Forest Supervisor.
Seven “Companion Trees” are also being provided by the Tongass National Forest
"These companion trees to the national Christmas tree are of the species Pinus contorta, otherwise known as shore pine, bull pine, twisted pine, and lodgepole pine,” said Ketchikan-Misty Fiords Ranger District Forester Aaron Steuerwald.
“Shore pine that exhibit the more classic Christmas tree form tend to be younger and open grown because branches will not grow if there is shading from neighboring trees. Shore pine in Southeast Alaska are commonly found in muskegs. Shore pine growing in muskegs are usually short, twisted, and bushy but sometimes can reach 30-40 feet in height,” added Steuerwald.
The best available Shore Pine trees were found on the Shoal Cove road system on Revillagigedo island in Southeast Alaska by Aaron Steuerwald and Steve Hollis.
The seven “Companion Trees” were shipped to the nation’s capital on Nov. 14, 2015 and are destined for the offices of the Alaska delegation and other locations in Washington D.C.
The tradition of lighting the National Christmas Tree was started by the thirtieth president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, in 1923.
The lead non-profit partner, Choose Outdoors, solicited sponsors to help reduce costs of shipping the 2015 U.S. National Christmas tree from Alaska. These sponsors included; Shell, Skybitz, Alaska Airlines, Alaska Crane, Alaska Railroad, Granite Construction, Kenworth Trucks, Lynden Transport along with 2015 truck driver John Schank, ReThink Wood, Truckload Carriers Association, TOTE Maritime, Hale Trailer, Berg Industries, AG & Building Supply, Chugach Alaska Corporation, Kenworth, and Doyle’s Fuel Service.
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