Tree Confessions: Payback from Rescued Trees
by Deborah Gangloff

When my husband and I went house hunting in Southern Maryland, we wanted an older home with mature trees surrounded by woods. The farmhouse we saw on five acres near Fairhaven was just what we wanted - no heat, no well and no money down. And there were trees.

Three large maples in the front yard guarded the giant stump of a fallen comrade. On the sides stood massive Norway maples that changed to shades of yellow and red when the shorter days and chilly winds of fall arrived. Since the house was built more than 100 years ago, we knew the trees were planted to shade and cool the home long before the arrival of air-conditioning.

Two majestic black walnuts stood behind the house, and close to a hundred progeny ran down the slope to the flood plain. The woods also were filled with poplars, loblollies and dogwoods, and trees that came after farming stopped - black locust, hackberry, wild cherry and box elder. All shared a recent history of neglect and torture by various vines.

Twelve years later, we have cleared the trees of vines, culled them or made space for them to grow. Each tree on the property has been hand picked for wildlife habitat, firewood, beauty and erosion control - the guiding principles for our forest management. Clearing vines and competition has made the trees grow better. It's simple - trees that grow better are healthier and contribute more to the environment.

They take up more carbon dioxide, provide more oxygen, shelter more wildlife, prevent more soil from eroding and, as in the case of those around my home, provide more shade and cool the air much better. This is critical along streams where fish need cooler water. Trees also absorb pollutants, such as run-off from agriculture and paved areas. A buffer along our Bay and its tributaries means cleaner water, better swimming, more fish and healthier people.

For these benefits, a dozen Eddie Bauer associates, landowners and American Forests employees gathered on April 30, National Arbor Day, to plant 2,500 trees to buffer a creek in Long Green Valley, Md. Although the landowner lives miles from the Chesapeake, she knows how important it is to protect her little bit of the Bay as it slowly trickles through her farm.

Her neighbor, however, decided that vegetation was keeping him from using his land the way he wanted. He rented a scraper and denuded the banks where the creek wove through his land. Through a gap in the trees, our horrified crew viewed the neighbor's moonscape. The contrast to our newly planted acres was like day and night.

Just like my old farmhouse, the Bay needs to be restored. The Long Green Valley planting, and all the one million trees American Forests has committed to plant as part of our Global ReLeaf for the Chesapeake Bay campaign, represent the sweat equity we can all invest in the health of the Bay.

In part, it's a labor of love. But as with my old farmhouse, now worth many times what I paid for it, our efforts will pay large dividends for the future.

Gangloff is executive director of American Forests, an advocacy group and New Bay Times' partner in our 'Trees for the Bay' sixth birthday celebration Sunday May 16 at Surfside 7 on the South River.

| Issue 19 |

Volume VII Number 19
May 13-19, 1999
New Bay Times

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