International Day of Forests
March 21, the Forest Service joins the United Nation to celebrate the importance of forests and trees in our lives as part of International Day of Forests.
Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world.
The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of forested land across the United States. And, with over 130 million acres of America’s forests located in urban cities and towns, the Forest Service recognizes the importance of working with our urban neighbors. In fact, the State and Private Forestry branch of the Forest Service has a whole program dedicated to Urban & Community Forestry; check out programs in your state!
Urban forests include urban parks, street trees, landscaped boulevards, gardens, rivers and coastal promenades, greenways, river corridors, wetlands, and nature preserves. Urban forests form the green infrastructure on which communities depend. They are dynamic ecosystems that provide critical benefits to people and wildlife; here’s a fun top 5 list of the benefit of urban trees:
#5 – Serve as a mechanism for individual and collective recovery from disaster
There is a resonating power of trees to bring people together and create lasting, living memorials to the victims of terrorism, their families, communities and the nation. A sterling example of this is the Living Memorials Project (LMP). The Forest Service was asked by Congress to create the LMP because of an overwhelming desire to honor and memorialize the tragic losses that occurred on September 11, 2001. And, researchers recently completed a multi-year research project on these sites, investigating the role of stewardship of trees and open space in collective resilience.
#4 – Help save $
Did you know the net cooling effect of a young healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day? In addition, Healthy, mature trees add an average of 10 percent to a property’s value. Check out Forest Service’s Sustaining America’s Urban Trees and Forests report for more details.
#3 – Improve your physical health & wellbeing!
In honor of international day of happiness (March 20), take a walk through a field of trees you’ll likely acquire a little skip in your step! Recent studies have found that trees are good for our mental and physical health. For example, a Forest Service study showed that the number of acute respiratory symptoms was lowered by about 670,000 incidents each year.
#2 – Help keep our waters clean!
Like clean water? Thank a tree for filtering ground water and keeping streams healthy. The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.
#1 – Help you breathe easier & combat climate change!
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the main contributors to the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Amazingly, one averaged-size tree (a 30-footer) can store hundreds of pounds of CO2 over its lifetime and even longer if it’s used in building materials for a house or for furniture. That’s one tree; imagine what an entire urban forest can do! Check out this Forest Service blog – How trees help fight climate change all over the world – for more information.
Inspired? Here’s a few ways you can help trees and forests in your neighborhood:
- Find your state urban and community forest coordinator (good place to start – contact a State & Private Forestry employee focused on Urban & Community Forestry; link)
- Use i-Tree to see what your trees are worth
- Get involved in urban natural resources stewardship; the Eastern Region’s Urban Connections program is a great place to start.
- Find a tree-planting organization in your area and volunteer to plant or care for trees in your community; check out the Alliance for Community Trees to find a group in your town.