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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • The Green Space: For the love of trees

  • My whole life I have loved trees.
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  • My whole life I have loved trees. I have loved everything about trees, their branches, their bark, their leaves, their colors, their variety of heights and shapes. I guess you could say I am a died-in-the-wool, tree hugger!
    When I was growing up all of the trees around us were so big that the lowest limbs were about 20 – 30 feet up, with two exceptions.
    First, was a great big white pine tree in the backyard whose limbs were so unreliable that when my little sister and I would climb fifteen feet off the ground and we would come tumbling down with the limb beneath us.
    The other was an old crabapple tree that was not more than 15 – 20 feet tall.
    Since it was the only tree we could climb, it became the tree to hold a few old boards we confiscated out of the garage and drug them to the tree.
    It was christened to become our new treehouse.
    We could not do much more than climb up and sit on a board with a lunch, or books to read, or other treasures to hide; but, a treehouse it was.
    According to Jaymi Heimbuch, Living/Health, a new study by the U.S. Forest Service reveals that "urban trees and forests are saving an average of one life every year per city. In New York City, trees save an average of eight lives every year."
    The U.S. Forest Service along with Davey Institute looked at trees in 10 major US cities and studied how effective they are at removing fine particulate pollution from the air. This pollution is responsible for "premature mortality, pulmonary inflammation, accelerated atherosclerosis, and altered cardiac functions." It turns out that trees help. A lot.
    "More than 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas containing over 100 million acres of trees and forests," said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station and Acting Director of the Forest Products Lab. "This research clearly illustrates that America's urban forests are critical capital investments helping produce clear air and water; reduce energy costs; and, making cities more livable. Simply put, our urban forests improve people's lives."
    In another study, a team from the U.S. Forest Service, led by Geoffrey Donovan, set out to see what effect the loss of trees due to the emerald ash borer was having, if any, on human health. (The emerald ash borer is a boring beetle which invaded the U.S. in 2002, leaving in its wake devastating effects to trees in 15 states throughout the south and Midwest.)
    The researchers examined mortality data from 1,296 counties where ash borers are present.
    After adjusting their findings for demographic variables, like income and education, the team discovered a startling association: fewer trees aligned with more human deaths.
    Page 2 of 2 - So literally, if trees die, we die.
    It is not overstating things to say you can literally help save lives by planting trees.
    Wow, now that is quite a concept! Besides, kids need more trees to climb!
    Lynn Youngblood is a Kansas City-based naturalist who writes for Gatehouse Media.

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