I attended a Wild Virginia Forest Defense Task Force training last week, and I am very concerned about the status of our forests. We have destroyed the vast amount of our forests throughout the world, and there are few old growth, in-tact forests left on Earth. As stated on the WWF website, “Over the past 50 years, about half the world’s original forest cover has been lost, the most significant cause for that being humans beings’ unsystematic use of its resources. When we take away the forest, it is not just the trees that go. The entire ecosystem begins to fall apart, with dire consequences for all of us.”
If we don’t step up our protections of our trees, I worry it will cause damage to our environment and personal health.
Trees absorb carbon, give us oxygen and are an essential part of our climate system. Trees also absorb water, which helps prevent flooding and preserves soil by preventing run off and erosion, which causes problems like sedimentation. Trees act as a filter for air and water pollution, giving us cleaner air and water. They are necessary in creating a livable habitat for fish, like our state fish the Brook Trout.
Virginia has two National Forests and 24 State Forests that the government permits and supports extracting natural resources out of. Here in Virginia, we have a net loss of about 20,000 trees a year. The trees cut from our forests here in Virginia are used to make wood and paper products like toilet paper, building material and wood pellets. A lot of our wood pellets are sold to overseas consumers, mainly in the UK. Trees are harvested to burn for fuel, but it’s not energy dense and adds greenhouse gases into the environment. Wood is the major component of biomass energy. To log a forest, you need roads, which cause erosion and pollution problems and are access points for legal and illegal traffic.
Spending time in forests and among trees has proven to be beneficial for people’s mental and physical health. Now is the time to strength our protections of our forests in Virginia for the sake of our future and our need for clean air and water.
Jennifer Lewis is a Wild Virginia board member.