Clean air, clean water and healthy communities: the benefits of forests are vast. But as populations rise and development pressure expands, forests across the Chesapeake Bay watershed are fragmented and cut down.
In an effort to slow the loss of Chesapeake forests, the U.S. Forest Service has released a restoration strategy that outlines how officials and individuals alike can improve the environment and their communities by planting and caring for native trees.
According to the strategy, which has been endorsed by each of the watershed's seven State Foresters, expanding forest cover is critical to improving our air and water, restoring wildlife habitat, sequestering carbon and curbing home energy use.
To ensure we get the most “bang” for our tree-planting buck, the strategy targets restoration efforts toward those places in which forests would provide the greatest benefits, from wildlife corridors along streams and rivers to towns, cities and farms.
Trees along the edges of streams and rivers—called a riparian forest buffer—can keep nutrients and sediment out of our waters and nurture critters with vital habitat and food to eat. Trees in towns and cities—called an urban tree canopy—can clean and cool the air, protect drinking water and boost property values, improving the well-being of an entire neighborhood at a low cost. And trees on farms—in the form of wind breaks, forest buffers or large stands of trees—can protect crops, livestock and local wildlife while providing a farmer with a new form of sustainable income.
Other areas targeted for forest restoration include abandoned mine lands in headwater states and contaminated sites where certain tree species could remove toxic metals from the soil.
Learn more about the Chesapeake Forest Restoration Strategy.
Imagine a summer afternoon spent on Tuckahoe Creek. As the waterway narrows, the branches of streamside trees form a canopy over paddlers, painting the sky green from one shore to another.
Image courtesy Serafin Enriquez/Flickr
Located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Tuckahoe Creek borders Caroline, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. Much of the 21-mile tributary to the Choptank River is bordered by wooded marshland. In Tuckahoe State Park, visitors can launch canoes and kayaks into the creek, hikers and horse-lovers can walk or ride 20 miles of scenic trails and fishermen can press their luck in a 60-acre lake.
From shopping bags and gift wrap to the train, plane and car trips that we take to visit family and friends, our carbon footprints get a little larger during the holidays. So when it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, why not do so with the environment in mind? While the "real" versus "fake" debate rages on, we have sifted through the arguments to find four tips that will make your Christmas tree "green."
Image courtesy Jo Naylor/Flickr
1. Avoid artificial. As deforestation becomes a global concern, an artificial tree might seem like a green choice. But some researchers disagree. Most of the artificial Christmas trees sold in the United States are made in China using polyvinyl chloride or PVC, a kind of plastic whose petroleum-dependent manufacturing, processing and shipping is a serious emitter of greenhouses gas. And while one study did find that reusing an artificial tree can be greener than purchasing a fresh-cut fir each December, that artificial tree would have to be used for more than two decades—and most end up in a landfill after just six to nine years.
Image courtesy Dave Mathis/Flickr
2. Don’t be a lumberjack. While going artificial might not be the greenest choice, neither is hiking up a local mountain with an axe in hand. When a tree is removed and not replaced, its ecosystem is robbed of the multiple benefits that even a single tree can provide. Trees clean our water and air, provide habitat for wildlife and prevent soil erosion. Instead of chopping down your own Christmas tree, visit a farm where trees are grown, cut and replanted just like any other crop.
Image courtesy macattck/Flickr
3. Choose a tree farm wisely. Millions of Christmas trees are grown on farms across the United States, emitting oxygen, diminishing carbon dioxide and carrying some of the same benefits of a natural forest. And some of these tree farms are sustainable, offering locally-grown, pesticide-free trees and wreaths. Find a tree farm near you.
Image courtesy Klara Kim/Flickr
4. Go “balled and burlapped.” Real Christmas trees are often turned into mulch once the season is over. But some farmers are making Christmas trees even more sustainable! Instead of cutting down a tree at its trunk, a tree’s roots are grown into a ball and wrapped in a burlap sack. Once the tree is used, it can be replanted! If your yard doesn’t have room for another evergreen, look for a company that will return for its tree after the holidays.
Autumn leaves are crumpling underfoot and winter coats are coming out of storage. It might be cold, but for one after-school enrichment provider, the onset of winter doesn’t mean we have to stay inside. In fact, their love of winter is what sets Elements apart!
Image courtesy Elements
Staff-members at Elements lead students through the Washington, D.C., wintertime woods, where a lot of layers keep kids warm on these educational afternoons. Running along trails and climbing up hills, students learn that even an hour spent outside can invigorate us.
Elements’ philosophy follows a growing body of research that points to the benefits of being outside. So what are you waiting for? Grab some gloves and get out there!