The tangy pungency of pine trees, the crumbly musky aroma of a pile of autumn leaves,luscious fruit tree blossoms… this public service announcement brought to you by… TREES!
Trees, the living beings we share our planet with. The species that provides life to ours. Trees truly provide the very air we breathe.
I live in a beautiful rural area filled with small family farms. The acreage is now almost entirely devoted to growing corn and soybeans – like many farm towns. A few generations ago, these family farms were self contained homesteads. Every individual family had their own livestock, large gardens and grew crops that would feed them and their livestock. Times changed and the small family farm slowly replaced the livestock grazing fields with crops. The pastures were tilled up and everyone planted corn and soybeans. Old fence lines still remain , reminders of the cows that once munched lazily on the grasses, barbed wire and fence posts are hidden among tree rows. There is a program that helps farmers remove the old fence and posts. Unfortunately, it seems the only way to remove the potentially dangerous wires from the tree rows is by ripping out all of the old standing trees by the roots and buried alive.
Out here, on the prairie, we have beautiful Red Tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls. They are both large raptors that are stunning to watch in flight and perched in the tall trees. Both birds eat rodents as a main course. During nesting season the hawk and owl share hunting territory. One hunts mainly at night and one during the day. The rodents, voles and mice, thrive in the fields full of grain. All of those rodents that live in the fields in the summer , come running for the shelter of our warm houses when winter blows in.
The large raptors make their nests in the tops of big old trees. The trees have lost their tops , exposing a depression. The birds build their twiggy nests down in the holes. They need the stability of the big trees to keep their brood safe. Larger birds, lay large eggs that hatch into big downy nestlings. Owls start their nests in February when the weather can still be quite extreme. The only nesting sites that are suitable for these large birds are these big old trees. the very trees that are being destroyed at an alarming rate.
All around me, I see great piles of trees that once could have housed these beneficial birds. Trees that are just being incinerated. The bare old roots stick out akimbo, like bony hands reaching up through the dirt. The cry of the hawk and the cautionary call of the owl beckon me to help them.
Only humans have the machinery to rip out trees by the roots. Trees that watched over the first settlers that settled here .
These magnificent trees also have another important benefit. They hold our soil in place. Trees help prevent wind soil erosion. As the local farms transitioned from a few hundred acres in individual units to 200-300 acres single crop fields, the trees got in the way. However, while these huge fields help the farmers to be more efficient it drastically reduces the beneficial trees that hold the soil in place.
It can be quite windy out here on the plains and a row of trees that act as a windbreak can be a lifesaver. The early settlers like to plant Osage Orange trees to be a windbreak for their homes and farms. The gnarly branches of the trees seem to hold hands. Now, people are ripping out all of these trees. The wind is still the same as it was 100 years ago and we still need those windbreaks.
I can’t help but think about the Great Dust Bowl. Arguably, the single worst environmental disaster our country has experienced. The Dust Bowl was created by combining devastating drought with short sighted farming practices. Around here, in the summer, I watch dirt devils spin across the freshly tilled soil and our topsoil fly into the atmosphere. The trees that once stood strong and tall holding our precious topsoil in place with their leafy embrace.
As I walk across the fields around my home, I picture all of the activity going on under my feet. Countless numbers of living organisms fulfilling their lifecycles underground. An entire world, unseen by us above-ground dwellers, except in the product of their labors. They produce the life giving soil we grow our food supply in.
And trees help keep it in place.
The tree removal program which was intended to just remove old fencerows has bloated up into removing entire swaths of tree groves. The trees are ripped out by the roots, bulldozed into huge piles and burned. It seems their could be a more environmentally friendly and economically smart way to clear trees.
Let’s rethink the necessity of removing trees that are providing life to all of us.