Big-Tree Hunting

By Laurent Belsie, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 16, 1998 | Go to article overview

Big-Tree Hunting


Laurent Belsie, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


On weekends when his friends are skateboarding or playing video games, Jess Riddle looks for trees. Not just any trees: huge, record- setting specimens.

Jess is a big-tree hunter. And like the few dozen men and women who make up the core of this leaf-loving fraternity, he uses weekends and vacations to find trees that will make it into the record books. Many big-tree hunters are retired professors or foresters. Jess, an Atlanta-area teenager who has just finished ninth grade, is the youngest of the group.

"He's a remarkable young man," says Craig Noble, a spokesman for American Forests, a tree-conservation group in Washington. "Jess is the only person his age that I know of who is interested in big-tree hunting."

Every other year, American Forests puts out its register of national champion trees. Although Jess has nominated 20 potential state champions in Georgia, he hasn't made the national register. That may change, however, thanks to a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park this spring, where he spotted a Fraser magnolia larger than the dual champions currently listed in the register. …

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