Appreciate some trees on Arbor Day

The Bush administration needs to learn about Arbor Day and the importance of trees.

On April 29, Minnesota recognized Arbor Day – the day designated to celebrate the beauty and benefits of trees. The entire month of May is celebrated as Arbor Month.

While this might seem like one of those silly little “Hallmark holidays,” Arbor Day is an important part of building public awareness of why our society should protect and improve our rural, community and urban forests through education and simply planting trees.

Unfortunately, a new Bush administration decision is pretty much making a joke of tree conservation efforts. This week, the president announced the reversal of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protected 58.5 million acres of national forests from logging and commercial use. Signed eight days before former President Bill Clinton’s term ended, the measure was championed by environmentalists and conservationists.

But President George W. Bush has signed the death warrants of these areas. Even though individual governors will be allowed to petition for changes to the new rule, it is unlikely they will prevent much destruction. Even adding roads through a forest creates dangerous passages for wildlife, fragments the forest and disrupts complex ecosystems that lead to the same kind of destruction occurring in the world’s rainforests.

While roads are, of course, necessary in many forested areas to allow practical cross-country travel, traipsing through our national forests building new roads and hauling in logging equipment should be out of the question. What is the point of having protected forests if a presidential administration can simply wipe away the protection?

Part of the National Arbor Day Foundation’s mission is to “advance rural land conservation and forest stewardship through the planting and care of trees,” as well as to “help protect and improve the global environment by promoting rainforest preservation, urban and community forestry, and tree planting throughout the world.” Trees provide our oxygen, habitat for our native wildlife and can provide significant cooling benefits when planted in the correct places.

Celebrate Arbor Month by appreciating a tree – or plant one, if you can. Maybe our federal government will eventually follow suit.