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NVCT's Changemakers: Safeguarding Our Trees Champions Forestry Protection in Northern Virginia

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

Aaron Kershaw March 31, 2022

Forestry protection is a fight that has proven challenging as Northern Virginia's growing development shrinks our region's tree canopy. On Thursday, March 24, 2022, the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust held its third NVCT Changemakers event title: Safeguarding Our Trees, a virtual discussion with leaders in forest protection. Each presenter shared their experience working in the field and what they believed was vital in gaining support on a grassroots and legislative level to protect our tree life.

Each presenter shared their unique experience and contributions to tree preservation and, in some cases, expressed how their upbringing impacted who they are today.

"I was a tree-hugger from the time that I was about three years old," said Melody Starya Mobley, the first African American female forester in the USDA Forest Service. "I had to go to Senator Tim Kaine in order to find out how many Black female foresters the Forest Service has today; 45 years later, there are six."

Mobley expressed the importance of representation not just at the table but also in making conservation decisions. Mobley now serves on the Forestry Natural Resources Commission and EcoAction Arlington, only a fraction of her environmental activism. Both are focused on growing urban forestry and diversity, equity, and inclusion in their work.

Another panelist for the event, Margaret Fisher of Plant NOVA Natives, reminded everyone how working together on a common goal is the surest way to get things done. "The concept behind collective action movements is that when separate organizations share similar goals, their effectiveness can be greatly increased if they pick one goal and work together to push a common message." Plant NOVA Natives promotes planting native plants to the general public, as plant species that are native to the region are vital to the ecological health of our area.

"It's pretty obvious that planting a small tree does not make up for losing a mature one, and planting 600,000 small trees does not make up for losing 3 million others, which is a rough estimate of how many are endangered just by invasive non-native vines in Northern Virginia."

Plant NOVA Natives, therefore, helps provide the resources necessary for like-minded organizations to protect old trees and plant new ones.

"Some people may ask why is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation involved in the preserving and expanding tree canopy? And we look at it from a water quality perspective," said Ann Jurczyk of Virginia, Director of Outreach and Advocacy, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

"Trees clean the air of harmful particulates, but from a water quality perspective, I want you to think about… one acre of pavement, like a retail parking lot, a one-inch rain will release 21,000 gallons of stormwater runoff… Compare that to an acre of forest, and you're only going to get 750 gallons of water runoff," Jurczyk said. For this reason, the tree canopy has a direct effect on Northern Virginia's water quality.

NVCT's Changemakers: Safeguarding Our Trees has successfully highlighted the importance of tree protection, native plant species, and diversity in the people and their voices who work in conservation. Each panelist has made a commendable effort in their work to ensure that we live in a region that enhances the health of its people, plants, water quality, and wildlife. To see the entire webinar, click here.

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