I was reminded of Nathaniel Philbrick's book Mayflower recently, when I read an article about changes the U.S. Forest Service had made concerning national forests and grasslands.
When the Puritans arrived in November of 1620 on a cold, bleak day, in what is today the area of Cape Cod, they observed there were far more trees than what they'd ever seen in Holland or the coast of England. And they hadn't yet discovered the "real" forests that once covered much of North America.
The Forest Service now says that the public will no longer be able to appeal "long-term plans" but will be able to be involved and participate in the planning process from its beginning. It's difficult to say exactly what this means, but given George Bush's environmental record, a healthy skepticism is not unwarranted. It would be wise to let the new Democratic controlled Congress in January know we're not supporting tree farms for the timber industry nor suburban housing on the nation's grasslands.
There is some good news, apparently, regarding forests worldwide. According to a study done within the National Academy of Science, we've had a significant "reforestation" in the past 15 years in almost half of the countries with the most forests.
The study also seems to confirm the connection between general forest improvement and a nation's standard of living, agricultural practices, education and competent government.
At the same time, tropical forests are being destroyed in various developing countries because of greed, corruption, poverty, ignorance and the lack of competent government. We in the developed world have a clear responsibility as consumers--if nothing else. We cannot remain passive bystanders and just look for what is called "cheap." Nothing ultimately is.
While I enjoy hiking and climbing, there are some practical reasons why we want healthy forests everywhere on this planet. Beyond the obvious fact that trees absorb carbon dioxide, forests also encourage biodiversity and slow erosion, essential to our well being as humans. Healthy forests also provide clear economic benefits, whether it's lumber for building homes or paper we use for any number of things.
Find some woods, take a walk and leave the cell phone at home. Be grateful you can stroll with a tree.