Image Source: Wikimedia Commons: By: Roland303.

I have been reading The Lord of the Rings lately. One of my favorite characters from these books is Treebeard (or Fangorn—and the rest of the Ents). Not only are the Ents tree-like in appearance, but Tolkien did an awesome job at showing us how important they are to the world, even without us realizing it. They provide us with shelter and protection, food and nourishment, and even wisdom and council. They will listen to us talk when no one else will and they are quite steadfast and strong, even through the direst of storms.

We owe the trees and forests of the world a great debt and thanks for all they’ve provided us with, but how do we repay them? We have them cut down for our furniture, homes, roadways, shopping malls, and other similar reasons. Fortunately, there are at least some people who care enough to stand up for the trees and give them a voice where they would not be heard otherwise.

Over the past 6 weeks and throughout 33 regional public meetings across the US, people have spoken for the trees. They made it clear to the Obama administration that they want greater protection for our National Forests; this includes applying a sound science to the process, preserving clean drinking water supplies, addressing climate change (once and for all), and better protection of fish and wildlife.

You may wonder why it’s a big deal to protect the National Forests; why should you, or anyone else, care what happens to them? Well, according to Mike Anderson of The Wilderness Society:

“What happens on our national forests affects everyone in the country, from the water we drink to the places we turn to for recreation. This public hearing process gave citizens the chance to urge the Forest Service to establish the strongest possible protection for water, trees and other natural resources needed by people and wildlife alike.”

If that quote isn’t enough to change your mind (or at least consider it), then maybe this bit of information will help:

National Forests (and grasslands) provide clean water for millions of US citizens, provide habitat for most of our species, and offer a vast number of great recreational activities. Given this information, it’s no wonder over 200 million people visit National Forests every year. Oh, and there’s also the job factor: National Forests provide and support thousands of jobs and small businesses, making the recreational economy worth more than $110 billion nationwide!

So, what can you do about it? Well, I’ll tell you.

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) intends to develop a new National Forest Service Planning Rule, which is used to create a framework for the development, amending and revising of land management plans for individual National Forests and Grasslands. Special importance is being placed on the planning rule now because of the vital role the forests play in the fight against climate change, as well as sustaining local economies and protecting wildlife and habitats across the country.

Since the USDA is aware of the impact the National Forests have on millions of US citizens, they want your opinions on the matter. So, they’ve been hosting a series of public meetings to give people the opportunity to speak out for (or even against) the trees; by doing this, any US citizen can give their input on the National Forests and the new Planning Rule, and thus become a part of an important process that could mean the difference of saving or sacrificing our beloved forests. Let’s do whatever it takes to help our forests and give them the thanks and protection they deserve!

To find out more on the National Forest Service Planning Rule and how you can get involved, check out this site.

You can also find additional information and resources from one of these awesome conservation organizations.

By Heidi Marshall