Rob Arner

Rob Arner: “This tree is the one right next to my house.”

I find such peace and tranquility when I'm in a forest or wooded area. Right in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley is Shenandoah County, Virginia. Here, state and national forests comprise 26 percent of its 512 square miles. I have the fortune of backing the George Washington National Forest outside Edinburg, Virginia. My town happens to be right in the center of the county. I have four oaks over 100 years old on my land in the middle of Three Mile Mountain.

Our first settlers thought they had found the “garden of Eden” and my town was first called “Edenburg”. My county has over two hundred miles of hiking trails and over a hundred miles of rivers and streams. Tourism here brings in around $250 million dollars each year.

Over a hundred years ago our county did not have many trees because of logging, heating and the Civil War burning of this breadbasket. Edinburg became the home of our first Civilian Conservation Corps. Eighty six years ago Franklin Roosevelt kicked off one of his greatest New Deal programs here. Two and a half million men were employed and planted almost three billion trees. Camp Roosevelt was the first camp where this Depression revitalization program began (http://www.ccclegacy.org/Camp_Roosevelt_68B9.php). Farther west from where I live is where the 7th CCC camp was built in Wolf Gap.

It has been estimated that about 5 billion acres of forest landscapes have been degraded on our planet. The timber sectors generate over $600 billion dollars and 54 million jobs worldwide. However, the economic contribution of trees is much greater since its larger impact is unreported due to both environmental and other factors. For example the wood fuel industry creates work for tens of millions in wood collection, transportation, charcoal, retail and transportation. The demand for timber is reported to quadruple by 2050.

The Shenandoah Valley acts as a huge water treatment system purifying our drinking water. Yearly our trees generate billions of dollars in timber, tourism and other environmental benefits. In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people and absorb the amount of CO2 as when you drive your car 26,000 miles. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air. Also trees lessen nature’s runoff and hold soil in place while filtering pollutants and recharging our earth. Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. By reducing the energy demand for cooling our houses, we reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants.

Also Shenandoah County has such attractions as Shenandoah Caverns, Bryce Resort and the Virginia Museum of the Civil War along with an amazing number of vineyards, breweries and agritourism venues. The county also is the fifth largest agricultural producer and timber sales yearly yield 713,000 thousand cubic feet that converts into 8,556,000 board feet.

We all profit from pollution prevention by new forests. By planting trees we collectively tap into expanded forms of well-being. New tree growth creates new possibilities. Also they are not just a return on our investment, rather, a greater return of our investment. There is a forest of treasure in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley for all to benefit. Come see for yourself.

Sources:

Virginia Department of Forestry and Shenandoah County Economic Development

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