A million trees in 10 years is a laudable goal

Friday, May 4, 2007

Remember New Years?

Around McCook, it came in with a bang. And a crackle, crash and thump.

No, the noise wasn't from the Jan. 1 fireworks, it was from tree branches succumbing to the weight of ice from the blizzard that roared through the area.

At the time, experts told us to take our time in deciding which trees had to be taken down, and which ones might survive. Now that the trees are, belatedly, beginning to leaf out, that decision will be easier to make.

Unfortunately, many trees won't survive.

And that's too bad, especially for a Tree City USA like McCook.

It just adds to the problem Nebraska has been experiencing since the late 1970s, according to Scott Josiah, state forester and director of the Nebraska Forest Service at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

According to Josiah, the state has lost nearly half of its community forest resources since the late 1970s.

"In a largely agricultural and prairie state, community forests are absolutely essential for contributing to and preserving Nebraska's 'Good Life,'" Josiah said. "We all benefit every day from the efforts of thousands of people who planted and cared for trees in our cities and towns years ago. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to continue this tradition of tree planting so they can continue to enjoy the many benefits of a healthy community forest."

To do that, the ReTree Nebraska cooperative initiative, working with the Nebraska Arborists Association and Nebraska Nursery and Landscape Association, propose planting a million trees over the next 10 years.

The effort also hopes to increase species diversity in Nebraska's community forests.

"Good species diversity is a common measure of community forest health and sustainability," said Eric Berg, Nebraska Forest Service community forestry program leader. "This is a lesson we learned the hard way with Dutch elm disease, pine wilt and, soon, emerald ash borer."

He recommends no single tree species make up more than 10 percent of the entire community forest resource. "With good species diversity, not all of your eggs are in one basket, so to speak, and no single insect or disease can destroy your entire forest resource," he said.

It's a laudable effort, and one we should support. When it comes time to plant or replace a tree, check with a local nursery for a list of trees appropriate for our area, and covered by McCook's tree rebate program. And make sure you follow directions, including mulching the new tree.

It's ironic, however, that one of the goals of LB701 will be to reduce the number of unwanted trees -- largely red cedar and Russian olive -- that are sucking water out of the Republican River basin.

On the other hand, the loss of all those unwanted trees will make the planting of more desirable trees all that much more important.

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