|Asheville, NC October 28, 2022 –Nantahala Ranger District employees visited every school in Macon County where they taught students about forestry and created over 1,500 ornaments for the 2022 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, also known as the People’s Tree.
Students learned about spruce-fir forests and their connection to the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, which is a red spruce. Students also learned about hemlocks and hemlock wooly adelgid, the important role hemlocks play providing shade to our mountain streams for trout habitat, and Carolina northern flying squirrels. The students would then head outside for a nature walk where they learned how to identify various trees at their schools, collected leaves, and talked about forest management.
Next came the decorating; students and teachers worked with U.S. Forest Service employees to make ornaments that will adorn the 2022 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, nicknamed Ruby, and other trees that will be showcased this holiday season in Washington, D.C. Students used natural products and recycled materials to create ornaments of cardinals, the North Carolina state bird; honeybees, the North Carolina state insect; and rubies to represent Macon County as the gem capital of North Carolina, among many other special ornaments that represent our state.
“I am so thankful for all the Macon County teachers that opened their classrooms and allowed us to share this great experience with all the students,” said Alexandra Lewis, a forester on the Nantahala Ranger District. “It was heartwarming to revisit the schools that I grew up in and see some of my past teachers. I especially enjoyed showing young girls that they too can be foresters!”
Lewis truly embodied this year’s theme, From the Mountains to the Sea, when she taught a forestry lesson over Zoom to a school on the coast of North Carolina. She also gave them supplies to make ornaments that represented their part of the state, creating a connection to forestry and our public lands from the mountains to the sea.
In addition to school visits, at multiple community events including the Cliffside Fish Day, the Future Farmers of America Rodeo, Macon County Fair, and Mountain Heritage Day at Western Carolina University, Nantahala Ranger District employees staffed ornament-making booths.
“We are beyond grateful for the amazing amount of support we’ve received from the schools and our communities in Macon County for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project,” said Myra Cook, Administrative Assistant Nantahala Ranger District. “It’s been so special to see the students at other community events and hear them talking about what they learned and remember about forestry and how much fun they had making ornaments.”
The ornaments created here will be used to decorate the 2022 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree which will adorn the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building and other trees that will be showcased this holiday season in Washington D.C.
Every year since 1970, the USDA Forest Service has provided the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. This year’s tree will come from the Pisgah National Forest, one of four national forests in North Carolina including the Nantahala National Forest.
Everyone is welcome to come out and see the tree as it begins its journey from the mountains to the sea and up to Washington, D.C. The tour will begin with a harvest celebration at the Western North Carolina Agriculture Center and then head to Murphy, Cherokee, and the Pisgah Ranger District Visitor Center before traveling east across the state.
For more information on tour stops visit https://www.uscapitolchristmastree.com/calendar/.