Letter to the editor: Don’t overlook Arbor Day

There is much information about the beginning of Arbor Day, and if interested it is easy to look up on the internet. Arbor Day is observed here in Vermont on the first Friday of May and for this year, the date is May 6.

It is interesting to note that on April 15, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an “Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States,” telling them, in part:

“It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetimes the Nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed …

“A true forest is not merely a storehouse full of wood, but, as it were, a factory of wood, and at the same time a reservoir of water. When you help to preserve our forests or to plant new ones, you are acting the part of good citizens.”

We can be grateful that President T. Roosevelt had this deep appreciation and insight regarding our forests. This Arbor Day, may we give thanks to him for championing the well-being of trees. The well-being of all life on Earth, as we are learning, is related to the wise stewardship of our trees.

Because of current research, especially the research of scientists like William R. Moomaw of Tufts University and his introduction of the term “Proforestation,” the state-of-the-art in science now tells us that old and mature trees and their contiguous forests are needed to help mitigate the climate emergency, as the oldest trees absorb the greatest amount of carbon dioxide. In addition, clean, oxygenated air, fresh water, and abundant diversity of habitat are also produced by our intact, undisturbed mature and older forests.

Places like the White Rocks Recreation area in the Green Mountain National Forest, which is slated for more than 11,000 acres of invasive “management practices” (that translate into clear cuts and profits going to the timber industry), has a particularly large concentration of old trees. There are efforts now to stop the logging in that area. The organization Standing Trees is significantly helping that effort, at standingtrees.org.

This Arbor Day, and on future Arbor Days to come, may we as a people reflect on and celebrate the knowledge and wisdom regarding our remaining old and mature trees and forests. May we have the wisdom to help preserve what is left of these special trees, which take sometimes up to 100 years to grow. They are priceless for what they offer to supporting life on Earth. May we work with our local timber industry to help bring in balance with our differing views, and may we also create new legislation that reflects a respect for what the current science is telling us, to leave the old and mature trees alone. 

May we recognize that we no longer have the time to wait for newly planted tree seedlings to grow up or the time to wait for new management practices that aim to create conditions for old growth forests in the distant future. The critical time is now, to integrate current science into how and why we protect, care for, and reframe our use of older and maturing forests into a more life sustaining course for future generations.

This Arbor Day, may we reflect on these things.

Thank you,

Jennifer Vyhnak


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