Save local trees, restore local forests

| 23 Jul 2019 | 02:56

    To the Editor:
    The people of West Milford Township, like it or not, are permanent environmental stewards of 75 square miles of land and five square miles of water. Forests cover nearly two-thirds of the township.
    A large percentage of West Milford’s land can never be developed due to the Highlands Act and other land or water use restrictions.
    As residents are aware, the forests within the Pequonnock River Watershed were particularly decimated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
    Since that original trauma, each new storm significantly adds to forest mortality.
    Many people believe, including this writer, that the pace of forest devastation cannot continue as it has without seriously damaging our ecosystem.
    Here are some very real consequences to the environment if a solution to fixing our weakened forests is not properly addressed:
    • Dead trees are an extreme fire danger as it allows fires to spread more rapidly.
    • Dead trees become more rapidly infested with opportunistic bugs and insects like ticks, bark beetles, and termites. Insects are like vultures – they can kill off a weak forest.
    • Dead tree limbs and forest debris line our road berms and pose a danger to people in cars and other vehicles.
    • Dead trees no longer release oxygen into the atmosphere.
    • Tree roots stabilize soil and prevent erosion. Soil is washed away.
    • Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rainwater, as well as protecting aquifers and watersheds.
    • Dead trees diminish the natural beauty of West Milford.
    What Can Be Done to Save West Milford’s Forests?
    West Milford Township is chartered to supply clean water to the City of Newark.
    We need to ask ourselves what will happen when the water table is no longer supported by a healthy population of trees.
    A few interesting facts about trees: One acre of healthy trees removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year, and one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year.
    Many other forested regions around the country – most notably California – are facing similar threats due to tree mortality.
    California now allows safe burns, an age-old Indian reforestation method.
    Reforestation is a pillar of forest conservation and yields better air and water quality, biodiversity increases, and it reduces soil erosion. In short, the ecosystem is sustainable.
    There are many ways West Milford can start to attack this problem.
    California and other states are implementing massive seedling efforts, for instance.
    The town might qualify for county, state, or even federal grants dedicated to reforestation and related conservation efforts.
    A task force could be started to engage with environmental agencies, advocacy groups, and various stakeholders to pursue viable solutions.
    As the Rain Forests in South America supply clean air that is felt around the globe, the same is true of the forests in West Milford.
    These forests and reservoirs were wisely set aside for this purpose.
    The carbon cycle is a biochemical process that makes life possible on Earth.
    West Milford has a unique responsibility and opportunity to maintain the oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle for the town and the region at large.
    Claudia B. Logan,