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Grand Valley Ford team "goes further"

A team of Grand Valley State University students created a video to tell the story of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a nonprofit organization that propagates, archives and reforests species of ancient trees.

Big Trees GVSU

Check out the Big Trees GVSU video to hear David Milarch, co-founder of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, share his story.

/GV Ford Team

/GV Ford Team

The ancient giants are almost completely wiped out. For decades, humans have been destroying them, attacking them with axes and taking them down by the thousands.

This may sound like a fairytale. Unless you know that the ancient giants are in fact species of trees that have been around for millennia: Hippocrates trees, black willows, redwoods and others.

According to David Milarch, co-founder of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (AATA), 98 percent of old-growth forests have been chopped down. AATA's mission is to propagate, reforest and archive species of ancient trees to benefit the environment and make the trees available for scientific research in the future.

This fall, a team of students at Grand Valley State University were given the opportunity to meet Milarch and create a video about his endeavors. The Ford Center of Emerging Enterprises contacted Frank Blossom, a GVSU professor, to invite the university to participate in a video competition as part of its “Go Further” campaign. The challenge was to create a video telling the story of a person who has done something remarkable. The school whose video gets the most views wins the competition.

When the team was put in contact with Milarch, they made a day trip to the AATA headquarters in Copemish, Michigan. Lindsey VanDenBoom, a student on the team, was surprised at what they learned.

“[People] are trying to get rid of black acorn trees because they’re messy and attract pesky animals such as squirrels,” says VanDenBoom. “But the crazy thing is [AATA] figured out that the emissions the trees give off can clear out cancer emissions that are in the air. Planting them around power plants would help eliminate toxins in the air.”

VanDenBoom found the mission of AATA interesting, but she also wants to spread Milarch’s story of how AATA was created.

Milarch was a tree farmer before he helped create AATA. About 45 years ago he witnessed the remains of a redwood forest that had been destroyed and was disturbed by the experience. His conception of archiving ancient trees, however, is what’s unusual.

“[Milarch] was actually in a coma,” said VanDenBoom. “While he was in the coma the idea of cloning trees came to him.”

When Milarch regained his health, his epiphany stayed with him. Experts told Milarch his idea was impossible, but he and his partners have since successfully cloned tissue from over 130 champion ancient tree species and planted old-growth forests in seven countries.

“One of my main goals for the video is to prove that anyone can do anything,” says VanDenBoom. “He is someone that came from a background of no money, no education. He’s really a big inspiration, taking something that experts said, ‘This is impossible,’ and he figured it out."

“We [students] have so many resources to utilize," he continues. "With an education and resources at our fingertips, how can we stop here? Go further, go above and beyond.”

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