ELIZABETHTOWN — On Friday, Americans celebrate a lesser-known but long-running holiday, Arbor Day, the inception of which dates back to 1829. At that time, pioneers settling the west missed the shade trees to which they were accustomed and needed them for fuel, building material, and containment of soil erosion. Arbor Day was established in order to populate the area with trees, and it is estimated that on its first observation, around 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska.
These days, an entire industry exists in order to sustain the natural gift, a sort of perpetual Arbor Day, and Elizabethtown’s Mote Forestry, Inc. is part of that industry.
George Mote explained, “We assist landowners in North Carolina and South Carolina with replanting timberland that’s been harvested.”
That reforestation process, he said, is being carried out more and more by private entities. Robert Bardon, N.C. State University professor and associate dean in the College of Natural Resources, agreed.
“In North Carolina, the majority of forestland — around 80 percent — is owned by private individuals,” he said, “and they are primarily reforesting land for the economic benefit.
“With the pine, you can get a harvest in 20 to 25 years, so most people can have two crops in their lifetime before passing the land on to their children. It only costs about $80 to $100 to replant a tract of land, so there’s a big return,” Bardon said.
Aside from the economic benefit of planting large stands of trees, many other reasons exist for participating in the practice.
“Plenty of research has been done showing that if people in the hospital see trees and plants, they recover more quickly,” explained Bardon. “In addition, urban trees help to hold down costs related to storm water management, and the average homeowner will experience reduced energy bills as well as increased property value with trees around their home.
“That’s not even to speak of the clean air they provide and the benefits to wildlife. We’re all dependent on having trees,” he said.
While North Carolina may not be in the tree-scarcity plight in which the pioneers found the land they were settling — the State Forest Service says North Carolina, since 2007, has seen an increase in forested area so that now 18.6 million acres, or about 60 percent of the land area, is covered with forest — consumption of trees is on the rise.
“The amount of wood that the average person consumes in a day is about one-half gallon. Now, we don’t measure wood in gallons, but that gives you some idea of the amount,” stated Bardon, citing a piece of wood he has in his office that represents the calculated amount. “In addition, that figure is based on world-wide data, and Americans consume about three times the world average.”
In order to sustain the vital source, Mote and Bardon both said that the average person not able to reforest vast acreage still has options.
“The Arbor Day Foundation will give people trees to plant in their yard,” said Mote.
Bardon added, “Really, for the average person to have an impact, they just need to utilize wood products. If you have the choice of buying something made of paper or plastic like in the grocery store, use the paper. When there’s more of a demand, the market will increase and people will plant more trees.”
For those interested, the Arbor Day Foundation is making it easy to celebrate the annual tree-planting holiday. By joining the Foundation, new members receive the following trees: red oak, sugar maple, weeping willow, baldcypress, thornless honeylocust, pin oak, river birch, tuliptree, silver maple, and red maple.
“These trees provide shade in the summer and vibrant colors throughout the fall,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Through the simple act of planting trees, one person can make a difference in helping to create a healthier and more beautiful planet for all of us to enjoy.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 901-862-4163.