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Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree: Pine Trees Help Slow Climate Change

December 22, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. - Towering longleaf pine trees once covered more than 90 million acres of the Southeastern United States. But their popularity over the years as masts for ships and high-quality lumber for subdivisions means that today the trees are found on less than three percent of their original acreage. Now, however, there's a push to replant the pines.

Conservationists like Tom Darden say having more forests would help Virginia better cope with effects of climate change. Darden is the senior editor of America's Longleaf Conservation Plan.

"If, collectively, we all plant more longleaf forest, we'll sequester or capture more carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the forest."

According to Darden, longleaf pines are resistant to pests and are better than most southern pine species at tolerating extreme weather conditions, such as droughts and windstorms, as well as wildfires.

Darden says researchers now have the knowledge to ensure that new plantings of pines in Southern Virginia will flourish.

"We have pretty much the science in place to restore these forests and we now need the support and the political will to move that forward."

Darden says more longleaf pine trees could also benefit Virginia's bottom line, because they create the type of forest that is perfect for outdoor activities.

"You'd have open park-like stands of forest that have towering pine trees in a fairly uniform way, across the landscape."

The Virginia Tourism Board says outdoor recreation is one of the top three reasons people come to the Commonwealth, and the state Tourism Authority says tourism added $4.4 billion in tax revenue to Virginia last year.

The Longleaf Alliance is online at www.longleafalliance.org

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA