I have been on a life-long mission to celebrate Pennsylvania forests and raise public awareness about them.

I do this in several ways:   I am a high school agriculture teacher at Danville High school where I make forests a centerpiece of my students’ learning.  I am a songwriter.  I write and perform songs all over the country that celebrate our cultural and natural heritage. 

Van Wagnar hiking

My latest effort to raise awareness involves traveling to the highest point in each Pennsylvania county.  Once there, I put on my arborist gear and climb the highest tree I can find at the site. 

To the best of my knowledge, this has never been done.  I’m hoping to use this as a way to raise awareness about our forests. 

Watch: Hike and climb #5, 6, and 7. 67 trees. Columbia, Luzerne, and Sullivan counties.

It’s going to take me several years but I hope the effort will give me a chance to get people’s attention and allow me to create discussions about forestry. 

Pennsylvania is blessed with some of the most incredible forests in the World.  I want to celebrate this while also helping to raise awareness about some of the threats and challenges they face.  

I’m a certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture and a certified forester with the Society of American Foresters.  Being able to safely climb trees goes with the territory. 

As a forester, I want to see more forestry awareness in the public. If I can get people talking about trees and forests I am happy. 

Our forests are the source of tens of billions of dollars in economic activity in Pennsylvania.  They provide spiritual and recreational value as well. 

Let’s start with the good; Pennsylvania forest products provide tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue for local people.  They are the source of renewable resources like wood and clean water. 

In addition, they provide us with spiritual beauty that can not be economically quantified.  Pennsylvania forests are simply magical. 

Van Wagnar hiking to climb

There are quite a few threats to our forests.  Non-native organisms such as insects and invasive plants from other continents for example. 

However one of the biggest threats may be apathy.  Do my fellow Pennsylvanians realize how precious our forests are?  Do they realize that they have vulnerabilities? 

In a democracy, it is so important that the majority of people are educated in forest ecology and economics so we can make sound decisions for the future of the Commonwealth.  A lack of understanding of forest issues may prove to be the biggest threat to Pennsylvania forests.  

As an arborist, I get to climb a lot of trees.  It’s always a powerful experience.  However, these climbs are something different.  I am literally seeing the forest from a perspective that no other person has experienced. 

Van Wagnar climbing tree

People have hiked the forest floor, and pilots have navigated the ridge tops, but I am up in the canopy of the trees seeing something brand new.  This entire experience is only possible because of the trees. 

My life is suspended 75 feet off of the ground by the branches of another living organism.  It’s hard to explain.  All I can say is it is a very special experience for me.  

This effort may prove to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever taken on.  However, I plan to finish it.  And best of all, I hope it will be a force for good in this world.

You can read more and watch videos from each climb here: http://vanwagnermusic.com/climb.html


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67 Trees on 67 Mountains in 67 Counties