Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Too Many Trees?

UPDATE: The Sun-Gazette published our letter ... and apparently we're not the only ones to object!

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This comes from the July 31st "Political Notes" column in the Sun-Gazette newspaper ...

TREES? WE'VE GOT PLENTY OF TREES: Among those who joined us for dinner at the Lead Virginia field trip to Tysons Corner on July 21 was Gerald Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.We don't always agree with Connolly, but we like him. Along with Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton, who also attended, Connolly made some valid points about the deteriorating relationship between the state government and Northern Virginia's localities.

But another thing Connolly said struck us as interesting. He noted that, in Fairfax County, there are more trees today than there were 100 years ago or 200 years ago. Tree-huggers (our phrase, not his) don't believe this, but it's true.

Hmmm. Could the same thing be true in Arlington? We know that a whole lot of old-growth trees were cut down in the building of Arlington National Cemetery, but is it possible that there are more
trees today than in years gone by? If so, the county government's hysteria over preserving trees (although it does a rather shabby job of maintaining trees on its own property) would seem to be a bit misplaced.


Here's the letter to the editor Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment sent in response ...

It was surprising to see a friend of the environment, Fairfax County Board Chairman Gerry Connolly, take a jab at environmentalists in the Sun-Gazette's July 31st Political Notes column. "[Connolly] noted that, in Fairfax County, there are more trees today than there were 100 years ago or 200 years ago. Tree-huggers (our phrase, not his) don't believe this, but it's true."

Yes, in terms of sheer numbers, there were fewer trees in our region's agricultural economy than there are today in our high-tech age, and yes, there are probably some tree lovers who feel no tree should ever be cut down for any reason. But it's disappointing to hear Chairman Connolly using the low point of Fairfax's arboreal history as his frame of reference, and using the views of a few extremists to represent all environmentalists.

The need for trees is not about a numbers game. We need to find sustainable solutions to our region's prolonged pollution problems, and a comprehensive tree management plan is a part of the answer. The US Environmental Protection Agency has designated the Washington region (including Fairfax and Arlington Counties) as a nonattainment area for both ground-level ozone and fine particles. According to the International Society of Arboriculture, trees can help absorb that ozone and filter out those particulates. Trees also reduce water pollution by absorbing stormwater runoff, offer shade and cool urban heat islands, and provide habitat for wildlife.

Beyond the technical talk, trees are fun for climbing, picnicking, and yes, for providing the paper to print our favorite local newspapers. Let's work together to make sure they're around for generations to come!

Miles Grant
Board Chair
Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
http://www.arlingtonenvironment.org/

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