Truth: A tree is man’s best friend

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Vinton County, Ohio forest
A mixed forest of oaks, suagar maple, yellow poplar and beech in Zaleski State Forest. (Mark DeBrock, Vinton County)

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and spring is in the air. Farmers are getting in the fields, flowers are in bloom and trees are in bud. It is a great time of year. God’s beauty is abounding and many of us will be busy with gardens and landscaping.

For conservation and environmental enthusiasts, this is a time for two major celebrations. The end of April brings with it Arbor Day. This is a nationally recognized holiday which is celebrated the last Friday in April. In honor of this day, groups and individuals are encouraged to plant and care for trees.

Many soil and water conservation districts also supply tree seedlings to elementary students to take home and plant in honor of Arbor Day. This is a great experience for the children. They can contribute to improving our environment while also gaining a better understanding of the connection of our soil to living plants — observing the root systems, learning how water is taken up in the plant, and how important it is to plant the tree correctly.

Speak for the trees

Trees are important to our environment for a number of reasons.

On hillsides or stream slopes, trees help to slow runoff and hold soil in place, helping to improve water quality. Trees fix nitrates into the soil making it more fertile to grow other plants. They also help conserve energy when planted as windbreaks or when strategically placed around your home. This simple action can help cut summer energy demand for cooling our homes by up to 50 percent. Trees reduce noise pollution, provide a home and food for wildlife, and provide us numerous products.

“I am the heart of your hearth, the shade screening you from the sun; I am the beam that holds your house, the board on your table; I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead; the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin. I am the gift of God and the friend of man.”
— Author Unknown

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The last Sunday in April through the first Sunday in May also marks the celebration of Stewardship Week. This is a week designed to remind us of our personal responsibility to care for the natural resources for which we all depend. This year’s theme revolves around forestry stewardship: “We All Need Trees.”

For so many of us, the forest is a country drive away, tucked away in places foreign to our everyday activity.

The forest is a joyous and generous place. It offers families the opportunity to take a peaceful walk and picnic on a sunny afternoon. It provides school children with the perfect atmosphere to learn about the great outdoors. It’s a refuge for the creatures which consume the plants and berries growing along its floor.

The forest helps to produce the paper products we all need, and many of the herbs and the meals we prepare.

Like a well-kept home, a forest needs someone to look after it — to clean it when it gets messy with litter and fallen branches, and to nurture it back to health when it’s been wounded. It needs stewards — those who can appreciate its gifts, and are willing to match its unselfish acts.

Do your part

Both Arbor Day and Soil Stewardship Week present an opportunity for you to act now. Plant a tree, participate in a forest clean-up event, and help improve the environment.
Stewardship is something that should be celebrated and continued throughout the year — not just for one day or one week.

“The best friend on Earth of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources of the Earth.”
— Frank Lloyd Wright

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Cathy Berg, Program Administrator for the Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District for 15 past years. Bachelor of Science Degree from The Ohio State University. Major in Agronomy with soils specialization and a minor in Natural Resources Management.

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