'America's Forests' Speaks for the Trees

Chuck Leavell explores a sustainable tree operation in South Carolina. James Edward Mills

Forests keep our planet cool, clean the air we breathe, create jobs and so much more. So it's about time they got their own TV show.

"America's Forests" highlights the people and places shaped by forests, and the viewer meets them all with the help of host Chuck Leavell, who may be best known as the keyboardist for The Rolling Stones, but he's also an accomplished tree farmer.

"We do stories about any aspect of forests in America," Leavell tells MNN. "It could be anything from how our forests filter our water, how they clean our air; the making of fine furniture out of wood; the process of building musical instruments out of wood." The show also highlights the beauty of forests, the animals that rely on them, and how we can benefit from their gifts sustainably.

Leavell also knows trees could use some help telling their story. He travels the country explaining why forests are the answer to many of the world's problems.

You can get a taste of the show with this trailer for the third episode of the series, which opens with Leavell on his tree farm near Macon, Georgia, and follows him as he visits sustainably managed tree farms in South Carolina:

'Can anyone imagine a world without trees and forests?'

The show also explores the obstacles our forests face.

"Our forests are in the news on an almost daily basis due to catastrophic wildfires and unprecedented insect infestations in many instances due to the unintended consequences of well intentioned environmental policies and the effects of climate change," Executive Producer Bruce Ward tells MNN. "More and more people are seeking answers to how these issues are being addressed. Our series, in part, seeks to answer these questions."

It's a mission the team embraces.

"There is no resource that is more important to our daily lives than our trees and forests," says Leavell. "Trees give us materials to make books, magazines, newspapers, packaging and other paper products; they clean our air and our water; they provide home and shelter to all manner of wildlife; and when we take a walk in the woods, they put our minds and hearts at ease. Can anyone imagine a world without trees and forests?"

To tell the story, the show takes viewers to many locales.

The first two episodes in the series visit Oregon and Colorado. You can watch all three episodes and all future episodes on the show's website and on PBS. Future episodes will jump around to different cities across America to introduce more people who have a passion for the woods, whether they be architects, artists, climbers or carpenters.

A shared appreciation

Leavell is a supporter of sustainable forestry and conservation.
Leavell travels the country in search of those with a love for trees and forests. James Edward Mills

The third episode of the series recently premiered at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The crowd of about 350 people included several environmental lawmakers.

"The three episodes currently airing — Colorado, Oregon and South Carolina — have been widely acclaimed by conservationists, the wood products community, re-creationists and government agencies," says Ward, who is also founder and President of Choose Outdoors. He shares executive producing duties with Kate Raisz, an award-winning filmmaker who has decades of experience making television programs for PBS and other networks.

"We hope viewers will come to understand the considerable progress has been in developing collaboration amongst the many forest stakeholders."