On Friday, April 22, communities around the globe with be celebrating Earth Day 2016. Founded in 1970, this occasion raises awareness of environmental causes, such as conservation, stewardship and sustainability – three principles agriculture communities participate in on a regular basis. This year’s Earth Day theme is “Trees For The Earth” and encourages people to plant trees to help the earth with these goals in mind (EarthDay.org):
- Trees help combat climate change. They absorb excess and harmful CO2 from our atmosphere. In fact, in a single year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced by driving the average car 26,000 miles.
- Trees help us breathe clean air. Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
- Trees help communities. Trees help communities achieve long-term economic and environmental sustainability and provide food, energy and income.
On my family’s ranch, keeping trees and forests healthy was an important part of preventing erosion in times of heavy rainfall, maintaining shade for our cattle during hot summers and shelter during winter storms. Here in Montana and on the high plains, trees also play an important role as shelter belts protecting against strong, cold winds. Managing forests for lumber also helped keep trees healthy and provide an income for many families with planning that stretches across centuries.
Agriculture receives much flack for damaging the environment through deforestation (especially in developing regions of the world). When in reality, the number of forested acres in countries like the U.S. are growing (Link) as we continue to manage our trees as the renewable resources they are. An important goal is to keep these forests sustainable. Sometimes this can be interpreted as needing a hands-off approach to keep things natural, when in reality, forests need to be managed to prevent devastating damage from wildfires and disease. Unmanaged forests often are not healthy forests. The U.S. Forest Service provides a ton of information on our country’s forests.
Agriculture plays an important role in keeping our trees and forests healthy. A good portion of the country’s forests are on private lands (especially in the east). Most of our country’s open lands and wildlife habitats are located on farms and ranches. Agriculture ensures a healthy balance to forests by preventing overgrowth, maintaining open lands and management through livestock grazing.
My Earth Day Challenge For Agriculture
Take the opportunity this week (and throughout the year) to talk about how agriculture influences positive management of healthy, sustainable forests in our country. How does your farm or ranch promote healthy trees and aid in maintaining open lands for wildlife habitat? Why is managing our forests important to the goal of keeping them healthy?
Also, take advantage of other opportunities to discuss your role in positive contributions to the environment:
- How does your farm or ranch help provide for a healthy environment?
- Describe how you work toward environmental sustainability, conservation and stewardship.
- How does farming and ranching work to ensure clean air and water?
- How do you and your operation help and celebrate Earth?
- What is Sustainable Agricultural and why does it matter to you?
— Jeff Simmons (@JeffSimmons2050) April 14, 2016
Respond to these questions in the comments below. Join in the conversation through our Agriculture Proud Facebook group. Ask your friends and neighbors if they have questions about agriculture and its impact on our earth. Join an Earth Day celebration in your community. Tweet about it. Blog about it. Just work to get the word out. Be sure to come back and let me know how it goes!
Farmers and ranchers work on a regular basis to improve our environment and leave it in better condition for the next generation. With all our opponents being outspoken on their perception of agriculture damaging our environment, farmers and ranchers can’t afford to ignore the Earth Day conversations.
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Stay tuned for Episode 7 of the Agriculture Podcast where I’ll speak with the World Wildlife Fund about sustainable ranching. Released on Wednesday, April 20.