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New Year's resolutions - Preserve the forests

December 26, 2009|By JUDY NIEDZIELSKI, SANDY SCOTT and CELESTE MAIORANA

Forests purify Earth's air and water and provide food and shelter to many animals. Forests also provide open space for sport and recreation and provide products that help us to build our homes and live our lives.

But forests' existence and health are threatened by development, pollution and invasive species. We need forests and they also need us.

Fortunately, small actions by individuals can yield beneficial consequences for our forest communities. So please consider doing one or more of the following activities in the coming year:

o Visit our public woodlands, alone, with a friend, or with children or grandchildren. Bird watch in a park; hike the Appalachian Trail; bike on the C&O Canal tow path; boat on the Potomac River. Remember to stop often, to look and to listen.

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o Plant and care for a native tree or shrub.

o Ask your favorite nursery to carry and label native species.

o Join volunteers work crews to clean hiking trails of debris in spring and fall and after storms.

o Install a rain barrel to store water runoff from your house roof.

o Make a rain garden to control water runoff from your roof, driveway and lawn.

o Let some of your landscaping go natural.

o Whenever possible, use natural, renewable, biodegradable products. Compost.

o Take care of the trees you have. When your trees need to be professionally trimmed, use a tree company that does not simply lop off all their major branches.

o Encourage your local school or other public place to convert some of its lawn into trees and rain gardens.

o Contact your county commissioners to let them know that you care about maintaining and expanding local woodlands.

o Contact your state delegate tell him or her that you care about fully funding state foresters and state and county extension services, so these agencies and officials can continue their important efforts to help people manage, protect and improve their forests.

You don't have to be a landowner to help forest communities. You can become involved in a community project or a conservation organization, be active politically, or contribute to a foundation which promotes, protects and re-plants forests such as the Arbor Day Foundation ( www.arborday.org ) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (www.cbf.org).

Judy Niedzielski, Sandy Scott and Celeste Maiorana are members of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board. Visit the board's Web site at www.wcfb.sailorsite.net to learn more about forest communities and projects you can do.

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