Magazine article American Forests

AMERICAN FORESTS 2005: The Path to Recovery

Magazine article American Forests

AMERICAN FORESTS 2005: The Path to Recovery

Article excerpt


It is now widely accepted that human influence is affecting global climate change, and recent research has demonstrated that nearly 60 percent of the world's environment is degraded. With more people living in cities (80 percent in the U.S. and 50 percent worldwide), the need for clean air and water has never been greater.

Fortunately, trees and forests can play a significant role in helping people counteract the negative influences of environmental degradation and can be especially beneficial for cleaning our water and reducing air pollution, including excess carbon dioxide. AMEWCAN FORESTS, through its programs in three Centers, helps people assess their forest resources, create better forest policy, and take action to protect, restore, and enhance the natural capital of trees and forests.

Urban Ecosystem Assessment Center

In our cities, many of the benefits and services trees and forests provide actually save money-an estimated $400 billion nationwide-that would otherwise be spent on water purification, stormwater removal, air quality, and other daily needs. When trees are lost to development, communities must begin to pay for these previously free services.

Because communities cannot protect what they don't recognize, AMERICAN FORESTS is working with cities to help them calculate the environmental and economic value of this precious urban resource. In city after city, our analyses have documented a decline in trees and an increase in development.

Nowhere was this more evident than in North Carolina, where AMERICAN FORESTS worked on three levels to help restore and protect tree canopy in the Carolina Piedmont region, a 15-county swath of North and South Carolina. AMERICAN FORESTS used Landsat satellite imagery. Geographic Information System technology, and our CITYgreen software to document the changes in land cover in the Piedmont region between 1984 and 2003.

The analysis showed that, overall, the area had lost almost one-fifth of its tree cover. That information was shared with communities across the region through the support of the Knight Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service. Our work continues at the local level with communities like Salisbury, which is using high resolution digital data maps to help integrate green infrastructure into its land-use planning.

AMERICAN FORESTS then kicked off a campaign with The Dale Earnhardt Foundation aimed at planting 77,000 trees around Charlotte to honor the memory of the late NASCAR champion and sportsman. The goal is to restore wildlife habitat, expand greenways, and return trees to riparian areas in the 15-county area.

The Earnhardt Foundation also helped ensure that the next generation of land stewards protects these new trees by supporting the introduction of a high-tech environmental education program in North Carolina schools.

AMERICAN FORESTS' program is showing 120 middle- and high school teachers how to combine computer technology, math, science, and geography with tree care and hands-on activities that teach students to value trees in their local areas. Louisville, Kentucky, is also training its teachers in the program.

All this was set against the backdrop of AMERICAN FORESTS' 2005 National Conference on Urban Ecosystems held in Charlotte. The theme. Nature at Your Service, aptly demonstrated how urban ecosystems can reconnect people to their urban natural resources. Speakers offered the latest technologies, emerging public policies, citizen action, and tools to help put the urban forest ecosystem to best use.

Elsewhere, our ecosystem analyses of Jacksonville, Florida; Detroit, Michigan; Forsythe, Georgia; and San Diego, California, demonstrated the value of urban ecosystems for clean air and water. We also have partnered with mapping giant Sanborn to deliver green infrastructure analyses to communities across the country.

Helping individuals learn the value of their urban forest for clean air and water became a little easier after we connected our Rapid Ecosystem Analyses to the U. …

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