Syracuse, NY – On March 21st, 2014, a number of community members and Atlantic States Legal Foundation (ASLF) staff braved the lingering winter chill to celebrate International Day of Forests with a walking tree identification tour around Oakwood Cemetery. Dr. Don Leopold, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Department Chair of Environmental Forest Biology and author of Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening & Conservation, led the tour, sharing his fervor for indigenous plants and wealth of knowledge with participants during an hour long exploration of tree bark patterns and terminal bud structure.
International Day of Forests dates back to 1971, when the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) expressed support to establish World Forestry Day on March 21st of each year. In February of 2013, the United Nations General Assembly officially proclaimed the 21st of March to be International Day of Forests to raise awareness and celebrate the importance of all types of forests. According to the FAO, 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, and 5.2 million hectares are lost each year, the equivalent of one soccer field every second. International Day of Forests encourages widespread forest restoration and tree-planting efforts, and the sustainable management of forests to reverse the effects of land degradation and deforestation.
The County of Onondaga participated in the celebration by officially proclaiming March 21st, 2014 as International Day of Forests. Forests and trees provide clean air and water, safeguard biodiversity, reduce the ‘urban heat island effect’ by increasing both shade and transpiration, act as a buffer against climate change, and are correlated with increased property values and lower crime rates while beautifying our neighborhoods. Trees also naturally soak up storm water, reduce soil saturation and runoff, and help to prevent the overloading of Onondaga County’s water treatment system after rainstorms. The County is committed to plant 8,500 trees by 2018 as a part of the Save the Rain program for stormwater management, and in partnership with ASLF, will plant an additional 400 trees on brownfield sites throughout the city. ASLF continues to improve our community through promoting both a thriving urban canopy and the restoration of native plant ecosystems, and will be planting an additional 200 trees over the next two years within the City’s combined sewer service areas as a part of the United States Forest Service Great lakes Restoration Initiative.
ASLF is proud to stand in solidarity with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in recognition of this important day, and is pleased to have had an opportunity to show the world how trees, forests, and their surrounding environments make a difference in the Syracuse community.