For more information:  
Keith Merckx, OFS Information Representative | 405.664.4908 

Forester Mark Bays Recognized for Lifetime Achievement

Oklahoma Forestry Services Urban Forestry Coordinator Mark Bays is the 2022 recipient of the Larry Kotchman Lifetime Achievement Award as presented by the National Association of State Foresters. In addition to introducing thousands of Oklahomans to forestry principles and forest management tools, Bays has worked closely with the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum for decades to share the story of the Survivor Tree, the American elm that miraculously survived the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

“This award is a tremendous honor. For OFS more than for myself. It’s not something I ever sought or expected. Our collective efforts are something I am proud of because the tree is so important to so many,” Bays said.

In addition to ongoing and innovative preservation efforts, Bays has also helped to propagate the tree itself by assisting with the planting of Survivor Tree cuttings around the Oklahoma City metro. Also, over the years, thousands of seedlings grown from seeds gathered at the tree have been distributed to the public.

Bays continues to tell the story of the Survivor Tree across the nation and around the world. He uses that story to illustrate Oklahoma’s human connection to this tree as well as the social benefits of urban forestry. Mark also helped NASF immeasurably in 2018 and 2019, when he played an instrumental role in seeing the association’s stormwater performance measure to the finish line. 

Oklahoma Forestry Services is the state’s lead agency related to wildland fire prevention, forest protection, and use. For additional information, visit