Retired barber Maynard Drawson says that over the years he has developed the knack of seeing the trees rather than the forest. Since he started on his mission to locate and measure new candidates for the National Register of Big Trees, Drawson has found 50 national champions. He has some rivals but that only keeps the competitive juices flowing--and also builds up the roster of champion big trees in the United States. When it was first formed in l940, the National Register had a list of 75 champion trees. By l996, of the 857 native and naturalized species in the country, 703 had national champions. They range from the giant elm that constitutes The (as in only) Kansas State Forest to the 450-year-old white oak in Wye Mills, Maryland.
Only four states--Delaware, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Wyoming--are without national champions; Florida has l46. Washington, Oregon and Northern California have l50. Climate has something to do with it, but so does the prevalence of champion big-tree hunters in a particular state. One of these is Robert Van Pelt of Seattle, who has 35 national champions to his credit. Then there's Maynard Drawson of Salem, Oregon, a rival. Another retiree, Robert Zahner, a former professor of forest ecology at the University of Michigan, became state coordinator of the American Forests big-tree program in Arizona after moving there. Arizona now has l5 more champion trees than it did three years ago.
For information on how to nominate a big tree for champion status or to get the National Register of l996-97 Big Trees, write American Forests, PO Box 2000, Washington, DC 200l3.