Originally Published: July 7, 2013 6 a.m.
Along with the rest of the nation, the American Forests family mourns the loss of the brave members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew, and we commend your paper for featuring the crew and its important work in the week prior to the tragic loss.
Joanna Dodder Nellans' article, "Fire has brought change to Granite Mountain Wilderness," highlighted the important role that hotshot crews and other wildfire fighters play in preserving our communities and beloved wild spaces. As Nellans detailed, the Granite Mountain Hotshots were instrumental in saving a huge and significant tree: American Forests' national co-champion alligator juniper, tied for being the largest of its species in the entire country.
Our nation's forests, along with culturally, historically and ecologically significant trees like the co-champion alligator juniper, face constant battles against fire, disease, insects and a rapidly changing climate. Having elite crews like the Granite Mountain Hotshots not only fight to save our forests, but also recognize the importance of one special tree, demonstrates the values of the men the world lost this past weekend.
Our debt to these brave men for protecting our forests and communities, along with saving the nearly 1,000-year-old alligator juniper, can never be repaid, but working alongside our partners in Arizona's Champion Tree Program, we will endeavor to care for the forests these men fought to save and to ensure the alligator juniper continues to thrive as a monument to their courage. American Forests will also plant 1,900 trees in a national forest damaged by fire in memory of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives doing a job they loved.
Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.