Thursday, April 28, 2016

Arbor Day

Tomorrow, April 29th 2016 we will be celebrating Arbor Day at the Prince William County elementary schools. I am fortunate to be able to participate on behalf of the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District in the ceremony and tree planting at Haymarket elementary school, not too far from my home. Pete Candland our Gainesville Supervisor will be with me.

The District with the County Board of Supervisors has honored Arbor Day for 30 years through school celebrations that have included 24,500 students, more than 100 trees planted on school grounds, and participation in the state and national poster contests (the kids at Haymarket made the posters pictured at the right. 
Arbor Day is typically observed the last Friday in April, a day of tress is now observed around the world at different times based on ideal planting season. This year, the we were helped by our Extension Agent, Paige Thacker, and some of the Master Gardeners who went to all six of the elementary schools to evaluate the location and perfect tree. For Haymarket Elementary they picked a Fringe Tree, which is native to this area. (This week I will also be planting a couple of trees  on the west side of my property.)

Arbor Day was an early recognition of the need for sustainability in how we live on the earth. Arbor Day was founded in Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton in 1872 when a million trees were planted in a single coordinated effort to counteract the deforestation that had occurred as trees were harvested to support the growth of the nation. In his speech to the school children who had planted and later cared for many trees, Mr. Morton described the great oneness of nature in all its parts. Then as now mankind is dependent on plants for life, for the wealth, for beauty and food, and for the recycling nutrients into the earth.

Without trees and native plants to anchor and build the top soil, host bacteria and insects to decompose and repair the waste the land died. It had no natural life. This had resulted in floods and droughts, infertile and barren soil, and even the extinction of entire communities as the land seemed to be used up and blown away across the prairie.

Each generation of humanity takes responsibility of the earth as trustees to hold until the next generation becomes the successors in trust. Our next generation will inherit a very crowed earth in need of great care and stewardship. Trees are the first step in caring for the earth. We need to nurture and care for the trees so they in turn can sustain us. According to The Tree Folk “A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs/ year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings.”

Forests which are really treed ecosystems now cover 10 million square miles of earth. There was a time when forests extended much further. Most of the cultivated and inhabited lands of today were once forests or estuaries. The demand to convert ever more land to agriculture to support the increasing human population causes the loss of the forest ecosystem and increased soil erosion and flooding. The loss of large portions of the rain forest is believed by some to be a major contributor to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Trees can also reduce air conditioning and heating needs by providing shade and providing a wind shield for winter and reducing our overall use of carbon based fuels. Trees also act as natural pollution filters. Their canopies, trunks, roots, and associated soil filter polluted particulate matter out of the runoff flow towards the Chesapeake Bay. Trees also use and recycle nitrogen and phosphorus which are contributing to the decay of the Chesapeake Bay and its estuary.

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