Fort Report: Arboreal bounty

LINCOLN – In his recent Fort Report, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry focuses on Arbor Day and the Trillion Trees Act.

The congressman recounts the importance of forest resources to development of the United States and references the writings of Henry David Thoreau and others  to accent the need for proper management of the “wooded world.”

Here is the congressman’s Fort Report:

The manager at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City recently gave me a book.  It’s called American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation.  It’s a thoroughly researched history of American progress, power, development, and sustainability written through the lens of the tree.  Though a bit long and academic, it’s a fascinating read. 

Our vast forests were the source of houses, barns, fences, and fuel.  During the Revolutionary War, we gained a competitive advantage when the British could no longer use our New England pines to make masts for their ships.  From the transcontinental railroad to newspapers, from barrel-making to stockyards to rifles, none of it would have been possible without our nation’s breathtaking assortment of trees. 

As the country pushed West throughout the 19th century, forests were devastatingly cut.  Given America’s vastness and a lack of an ethos around conservation, forest resources were thought to be endless and inexhaustible.  A national awakening ensued through the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  George Perkins Marsh wrote Man and Nature, launching the modern conservation movement.  John Muir and other poets of the wooded world laid the foundation for the national park system.  Minds began to shift: our nation’s extraordinary arboreal bounty was not to be exploited, but preserved, protected, properly managed, and expanded for our good.  In his book, Walden, Thoreau famously wrote: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Sometimes small things are big things.  There’s not a person alive who, upon gazing at the vastness of our various species of trees, does not come away with a sense of wonder.  Today, in public policy, we are forging a 21st century architecture of environmental health that harmonizes natural resources with healthy prosperity.  Trees are playing a starring role.  One straightforward, cost-effective, and scalable strategy that can be readily branched out is the mass planting of trees. In Congress, I have advanced several initiatives to conserve, restore, and renewably harvest trees for carbon sequestration and sustainable use.  Chief among them is a bipartisan initiative called the Trillion Trees Act. 

Today is Arbor Day.  Created in 1872 by Nebraska City newspaper editor and former Secretary of Agriculture, J. Sterling Morton, Arbor Day recognizes the critical importance of trees––as windbreaks to prevent soil erosion, as fuel and lumber for building, as enhancers of environmental security, as places of beauty, solace, and repose.  During my recent visit to the Arbor Day Farm, I had a chance to film a video about the amazing work of the Arbor Day Foundation, the most important and successful tree-planting organization in America and the world.  I invite you to review it below.