(This article was published in the Alpharetta Milton Patch by Julie Hollingsworth Hogg on April 3, 2013).
Shortly after I met my husband-to-be he invited me down to south Georgia for the ‘family meeting’. This family meeting was to involve a few days of getting up way too early, followed by traipsing through the pine trees in February, followed by some really excellent caramel cake. It was, in many ways, an excuse to bring the family together; but also to discuss real business – the business of tree farming. Little did I know that within about a 25 year time span, I would take a keen interest in the business of this tree farm but also urban forestry in general.
I was reminded of the all the reasons I love the forests of Georgia and tree farming when on Sunday evening I watched ‘Georgia Traveler’ on my favorite channel-since-I-don’t-have-cable-anymore -PBS- and it featured one of my heroes – Chuck Leavell. Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for Sea Level, then the Allman Brothers Band, and most recently the Rolling Stones, is also a tree farmer in Twiggs County, Georgia. Mr. Leavell’s devotion to both the business of farming trees and the environment is an inspiration to me and I suppose to many Georgia tree farmers. On the show the other night, it was pointed out that the state of Georgia holds 3% of all the forest land in the entire United States. In terms of private forest land in this state, 23.8 million acres are privately owned. Tree farms, whether public or private, are a 25 billion dollar industry to the state of Georgia. I am proud to know that our family is a tiny percentage of that. I’m proud because I know that it preserves the land, thus preserving natural resources and wildlife. One acre of trees can produce enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe for one single day. I’m glad that I’m contributing in some minor way to oxygen!
But civilization will creep ever outward from the urban core of cities, taking trees and forests with it; trees and forests owned not by tree farmers or National Park Service or Ga. DNR, but by private landowners who have the right to sell and who sell to take a profit upon their land holdings. This is not a blog to criticize private ownership and the right to dispose of property.
This is simply a blog to remind us that at some point we are diminished by the loss of forest-land and I don’t just mean the person who doesn’t get the pretty view out his kitchen window. I mean diminished as in loss of natural habitat that keeps ecosystems healthy; for example, trees that provide habitat to songbirds and birds of prey that then work to keep our backyard mosquito to rodent ratios in balance. I mean diminished as in trees that absorb and take up stormwater, thus keeping our waterways pure and unpolluted. I mean diminished as in the loss of oxygen producing, carbon sequestering, energy bill reducing workhorses that benefit you and me in spades.
The toll development is expected to take upon our forests has been documented by the United States government, via the USDA Forest Service on the website, “Forests on the Edge”.
Even here in Alpharetta and Milton this matters. Especially here in Alpharetta and Milton this matters! Both of these cities together have 1000’s of acres in trees at the time of this writing.
I know Atlanta metro may gobble up all of Alpharetta and Milton eventually, but we can preserve urban forest canopy even as development does the inevitable shaving of the land. But we have to see the urban forest for all it gives us. We have to want to keep it, even if it takes us being super creative to make that happen.
See these forests for the great natural resource treasures that they are and for all the benefits they bestow upon you and me and future generations.