5 Best Things to Do in Oakland

An Enlightened Whitmore Testified Before His State’S Representatives In Support Of A Bill To Protect Ohio’S Mohican State Forest: “In My Opinion, As A Forester, Intensive Timber Management And Intensive Recreational Use Are Not Compatible. We Need The Recreational Attributes Of This Forest Far More Than The Returns From Logging.” The Society Of American Forests Opposed The Bill. Whitmore Had Been A Member Of The Society For Forty Years, But Bravely Took A Stand Against The Society On This Occasion.

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In The Past Two Decades, Some Foresters Have Begun Calling Themselves Ecoforesters, To Distinguish Themselves From Industrial Foresters. This Is A Positive Sign, But So Far I Haven’T Met Any Foresters In The East Who Adhere Strictly To Ecoforestry Principles. So Far, What Talk Of Sustainability I Hear Mostly Has To Do With The Sustainability Of Wood Fiber For Human Use.

If There Are Any Foresters Reading This, Please Recognize That You Have Choices. I Know You Love Trees And Understand More About Them Than Anyone, I Know Your Family May Have Been In This Business For Many Generations, I Know You Need To Pay Your Mortgage, But Don’T Forget There Are Other Generations Coming Behind You. Please Do What You Can To Preserve Our Few Remaining Native Forests That Hold Big, Old Trees And Habitat For Many Species. Don’T Leave This Job Up To The Tree Huggers. After All, You Will Be Invited To See Forests We Will Never Know About.

From The Trail, Through The Serene Forest Of Beech, Oak, And Maple, I Could Just Barely See The Backs Of Houses In The Adjacent Subdivision. How Lucky The Children Who Live Here Are, I Thought. All Children Should Have A Healthy Forest, Prairie, Or Desert Or Natural Land Of Any Sort In Their Backyards (Or At Least Within A Short Bicycle Ride).

The Concept Of Infill Development Is Basically Good, But It Can Be Taken Too Far. To Take An Extreme Example, Consider New York City. Would It Make Sense To Fill In Central Park To Prevent Some Sprawl Into Westchester? The Plan To Set Aside Central Park Was Bold And Forward Thinking, And We All Appreciate It Now (Although I’M Sure Some Questioned It At The Time). If We Are Going To Live More Densely, We Also Must Increase The Density Of Our Parks.

Aldo Leopold Observed That, “We Can Be Ethical Only In Relation To Something We Can See, Feel, Understand, Love, Or Otherwise Have Faith In.” How Are We Going To Raise The Next Generation To Behave Ethically Toward Our Forests If They Haven’T Any To Relate To? The Director Of The Aquidneck Land Trust Considers Oakland Forest A Living Classroom, Where Children Can Be Touched By Nature; Perhaps Those Children Will Grow Up To Become The Donors Who Save The Next Parcel Of Threatened Land.

One Difficulty With Saving Green Space Is That, As The Land Becomes More Densely Developed, It Also Becomes More Valuable. When The Last Fragment Of Native Woodland In An Area Is Threatened With Destruction, The Price Tag For Protecting It Is Often Beyond The Fund-Raising Abilities Of Local Conservation Organizations.

The State Of Maryland Has A Sensible Solution To This Problem: When Property Changes Owners, Half Of One Percent Of The Real Estate Transfer Tax Goes Into A Fund To Preserve Open Space. As The Value Of Real Estate Increases, So Does The Tax Revenue, And Therefore The Ability To Preserve Land Keeps Pace With Land Values. In Theory, This Is A Great Program; In Reality, It Could Work Better. Some Local Governments Apply For Open-Space Funds To Buy Parking Lots Or Playground Equipment, Or To Create Athletic Fields That Are Mowed Twice A Week And Sprayed With Insecticides And Herbicides, Or, Even Worse, Covered With Artificial Turf, And Their Applications Are Being Funded. Meanwhile, I Watch As Neighborhood Forests Become Fields And Fields Become Housing Developments.

Let Us Fill In With Natural Land First, And Then Consider How To Build Around It. Our Green Infrastructure Needs To Be Valued As Highly As The Strength Of Our Bridges If We Are Going To Reverse This Destructive Spiral Of Not Having, Leading To Not Knowing, Leading To Not Caring, Leading To Not Having. In Oakland Forest, The Developer Planned To Build Thirty-Eight Condominiums. If You Were A Town Commissioner And Looked At His Plans, You Might Imagine The Condominiums Tucked Into The Wooded Acreage And Think The Idea Not So Bad. You Might Think The Community Could Live With That. And You Might Even Fear That If You Turned Down His Plans Just Because The Forest Was Beautiful, He Could Sue You.

Time After Time, I Have Looked At Plans Showing The Smallish Footprint Of Proposed Buildings On A Lot And My Mind Has Fooled Me By Plopping Them Down Onto The Existing Site Like Dorothy’S House Plopped Down On The Wicked Witch Of The West. Experience Has Taught Me The Hard Way That This Mind Trick Has Nothing To Do With What Actually Happens. What Actually Happens, Once The Developer Gets Approval For Development, Is That Heavy Equipment Comes In And Regrades Everything. Most Site Engineers Like To Start With Something That Looks Like The Surface Of The Moon. Unless There Are Regulations Forbidding It, All Native Plants And Most Of The Topsoil Are Scraped Away. Holes And Trenches Are Dug For Foundations, Storm Water Drains, Water, Sewer, And By The Time They’Re Done It Looks Nothing At All Like The Innocent Development You Imagined. Only Now It Is Too Late To Do Anything About It.

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