Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Planting a Love for Trees

Ten reasons trees are important

In an essay directed to schoolchildren of New Jersey, Joseph S. Illick listed ten reasons why we need trees.

He wrote that trees are our friends because they provide:

  • Beauty
  • Shade and shelter for people
  • Purification of the atmosphere
  • Wholesome water (through tree-covered watersheds)
  • Protection against drought and flood (by moderating the amount of run-off)
  • Food and shelter for wildlife
  • Nuts and fruits
  • Enrichment of the soil (through leaf-fall)
  • Environment for play and recreation
  • Wood for lumber, paper, and much more

This list comes from a booklet of 108 pages, titled Common Trees of New Jersey, by Joseph S. Illick, published by The American Tree Association, Washington, D.C., in 1926. The book was written for and provided to the Schools of New Jersey by The American Tree Association.

It is interesting to think of the historic context in which this little book was written. By the late 1800's, much of America's primeval forest had been cleared, and America began to realize that its trees were not an inexhaustible resource.

Arbor Day, on which every school child was urged to plant a tree, was first held in 1872 in Nebraska and was soon observed by other states (on various schedules: occasionally, regularly, and sometimes nationally.)

Illick's booklet, provided to New Jersey schools by the American Tree Association in the late 1920's, was addressed to school children with the intent of capturing their interest and enlisting their efforts for a lifetime, just as Arbor Day did.

The children of the 1920's became the CCC tree planters of the 1930's. Certainly, they had more pressing reasons than the love of trees to join the CCC, such as the need to earn money so their families at home could eat! Still, sometimes they must have remembered their study of trees in school and felt encouraged that their work was important to the nation.

I am most familiar with the history of forestry in Missouri but I believe many forested areas in Kentucky and throughout the South and West endured similar treatment by logging companies and farmers:

Around 1870, the citizens of Missouri had begun to use natural resources for profit. Timber mills flourished and vast forests of pine and oak were leveled, sawed, sold and shipped. Over-fishing of streams was common (dynamite became a new fishing tool) and an almost total annihilation of game turned the land lean. By the 1930's the lumber mills were gone as were the forests and game. Soil erosion and water pollution had begun due to the clear-cutting, slash-burning, and continued farming of slopes. This was the condition of the land when the forest service began restoration in the early 30's. When the Great Depression rolled across the United States, thousands of young, unemployed men joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). CCC camps were established in the newly formed national forests. During the 10 years the Civilian Conservation Corps was active, Corpsmen planted thousands of acres trees, built fire lanes, and constructed recreational facilities across the national forests. Much of their work is still evident.

Source: History of the Mark Twain National Forest

My husband's father worked in a CCC forestry camp in Minnesota during the Depression. He planted trees, and he also learned how to cut a tree with dead-eye accuracy using cross-cut saws, as the workers cleared the way for roads, campgrounds, and buildings in what became today's national and state parks and forests.

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Festival of the Trees
This is my first submission to
Festival of the Trees.
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"If the Nation saves the Trees,
the Trees will save the Nation."

(Slogan at the bottom of one of the dedication pages
in the front of Common Trees of New Jersey)


pablo said...

You should consider contributing this post to the Festival of the Trees this month. It's perfect.

Just Suzanne said...

If I'm not mistaken, the National Arbor Day Foundation gives away tress when you join as a member. Hubby and I are going to plant a bunch of ornatmental varieties that are native to our area, we hope this year. Anything that can be done to help promote the planting of trees ROCKS in my book. :)

Genevieve said...

Pablo, what a good idea. This will be a first for me, though I've often thought I'd like to submit something for the Festival of the Trees!

Suzanne, you are correct about the 10 free trees with your $10 membership. I did join some years back, and though the trees were very tiny when they came, some redbuds and hawthorns did survive (survival of the fittest!) The little Arbor Day tree magazine is nice, too.

Collagemama said...

We were in Lincoln visiting my dad a couple weeks back. He had photos to show my sons from 1958 when we moved to the neighborhood. The pines surrounding our lot were about knee-high then. Now they look like a forest. The maples were little sticks. I can't encircle the trunks with my arms now. It was intriguing to me to find how many family memories are interwoven in the branches. Thank you for this lovely blog.

Genevieve said...

Collagemama, your dad was a child of the 20's and/or 30's also, wasn't he? During the Dust Bowl days of the 1930's, Nebraskans were urged to plant trees to help hold the soil and break the prairie winds. Really, tree-planting has been a theme in Nebraska life for a long time.

In the 1960's my dad planted a lot of shelter belts on our ranch south of Bassett, NE, and he was pleased in his later years to learn that the trees were doing well. He considered it a legacy that he had left. I'll bet your dad has the same feeling about his trees.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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