America’s forests and all the benefits they provide were cause for celebration at a special reception Wed., March 30 in Washington D.C. as part of America’s recognition of the U.N.’s Year of Forests 2011.
Longtime keyboardist and musical director for the Rolling Stones Chuck Leavell joined USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Forest Service Associate Chief Mary Wagner, partners from many conservation organizations, students and scientists to highlight forests as the heart and soul of communities all across the country.
More than 350 people shared their passion, interests and commitment to celebrate forests and the benefits and values they provide. Individual tree farmers, professionals from local, state and federal conservation agencies and organizations, and students from a local D.C. elementary school all gathered to promote and celebrate forest conservation and restoration during a special reception heralding America’s Celebrate Forests, Celebrate Life campaign as part of the U.N. year-long celebration.
Healthy forests provide a wealth of benefits including
- Clean air and water
- Carbon storage
- A vital renewable source of energy
- A wealth of recreation opportunities, hunting and fishing
- A vast array of products we use every day, and
- Support for rural economies through the creation of sustainable jobs as landscapes are made more resilient to climate change.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced USDA’s strategy to promote the use of wood as a green building material. “The Forest Service has looked at the greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental benefits provided by working forests,” Vilsack said. “From these studies, we see that wood compares very favorably to other products when it come to green building materials.” Read more on USDA’s three-step strategy on the use of wood as a green building material which will promote smarter, more efficient use of wood products for green building, promote restoration and conservation of private and public forests, and create jobs.
On April 16, 2010, President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors initiative, in an effort to develop a sound agenda for 21st century conservation and for reconnecting Americans with our nation’s lands and waters. A key element of that agenda centers around giving special attention to educating children about conservation. “Forests are the gateway to nature, giving children the all important experience of wonder and exploration,” Vilsack said. “Today, 80 percent of Americans grow up in cites and may be losing touch with the outdoors, but they are tomorrow’s stewards of public and private lands.”
A special highlight included a room filled with ‘forest boxes’ created by school children from each state to showcase the unique characteristics of their forests. The project is part of Project Learning Tree, an American Forest Foundation environmental program which partners with the Forest Service.
Secretary Vilsack spoke with students from Barnard Elementary School in Northwest D.C. about the box they created and what they had learned. The students impressed the Secretary with their ability to name different types of trees such as white and scarlet oaks, pecan, and especially at this time of year, cherry blossom trees.
Rock and roll legend Leavell delighted the audience with a rousing performance. An American Tree Farm System® Certified Tree Farmer and co-founder of the eco-web site Mother Nature Network, he is also a noted conservationist and author has written extensively on protecting the country’s air, water and land.
We’re facing an invisible forest health crisis with about 2,500 acres a day lost through growth and development,” Leavell said. “It’s not about being anti-growth, but about our need for smart growth, making wise energy and transportation choices. Forests mean so much to all us – they provide the wood we need to build our homes and churches, provide clean air and water. They are an incredible gift to us. We have to take care of our forests so they’ll take care of us.”