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Don’t Forget the “Other Forest”

Guest Post by Jerry Berg – Land Trust member and Huntsville resident working to implement an urban forest conservation effort.

Randolph Ave & Minor Street – Huntsville

“Tree hugger?” I don’t mind being called that and I’d bet many Land Trust members don’t either. Some definitions I’ve seen include “advocate for the preservation of woodlands,” and “environmentalist, especially one concerned with preserving forests.” Well, sure — we’re all concerned about threats to wilderness lands and forest areas, aren’t we? In other words, trees in the wild. But what about that other population of trees, the urban forest? It’s only recently that my focus and concern have expanded to include urban forests, specifically the tree population inside our city limits.

This concern came about initially from casual observation of trees being cut down in my neighborhood and not being replaced. Then I began to pay closer attention and ask questions. As I’ve dug further into the subject and learned more, my concern has grown. I’ve become convinced that our urban forest or tree canopy is gradually shrinking and thinning. The shorthand term I use is attrition. Causes include age, storm damage, new residential and business construction, utility line clearance, disease, and sometimes fear that trees may threaten property or personal safety.

The Land Trust clearly has made tremendous progress in preserving wooded areas in North Alabama.  As a result countless trees — probably millions — have been preserved, as well as animals that rely on trees for habitat.

Maple tree on Ward Ave – Huntsville

However, most people go about their daily lives in cities. In a highly urbanized society, the majority of the population experiences nature only to the extent that nature is part of their immediate environment. Many people may rarely venture out and visit a traditional forest, so the urban forest is almost exclusively the one they’re familiar with. That is why our urban tree population deserves our consideration and protection.

With attrition of the urban tree population, we stand to lose not only the beauty of trees in our environment, but a host of other benefits they provide, such as have been well summarized by the National Arbor Day Foundation: “Trees provide the very necessities of life itself. They clean and cool our air, protect our drinking water, create healthy communities and feed the human soul.”

Attrition is a subtle process and since trees aren’t regrown overnight, the problem may not become truly apparent until it’s too late. “Unless,” to quote the children’s book by Dr. Seuss, “someone like you cares a whole awful lot.” Like the Lorax in the Dr. Seuss book, will you “speak for the trees”? If so, I’d like to hear from you.

 

To learn more about local efforts to preserve our urban tree canopy, contact Jerry at jerryb44@gmail.com or sign an online petition to prioritize tree protection in Huntsville, Madison, and Madison County.