Emerald-green forests once covered the majority of the eastern United States, from the Atlantic Ocean to the rolling grasslands of the midwest.

Wasn't it Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who wrote "Under a spreading chestnut-tree ...?" Well, the magnificent chestnut tree made up a quarter of the hardwood trees in our great forests, but it's pretty much gone now.

In 1904, a blight from Asia eventually killed 99 percent of the chestnut trees in North America. Later, we lost the beautiful elm trees to Dutch Elm disease, a fungus that also made it here from Asia. There are a few elms left in open pastures because they weren't in contact with other elm trees.

Today, beechnut trees are dying at a rapid pace. These trees produced millions of tri-cornered nuts that were a major food source for deer, bear, turkey and other wildlife. But now there's a beech blight, caused by aphids that feed on the sap of the trees. In a few more years, beechnuts will be gone, too.

We also have to deal with the emerald ash borer. These small insects were recently discovered in ash trees near Randolph in western New York. The Department of Environmental Conservation quickly addressed the problem by quarantining the area, cutting and chipping trees, and trapping the insects.

There's also a white pine borer, and maple trees have been affected by top rot disease.

If things don't change soon, the once-renewable forests of the northeast will be little more than brushlots.

The sad part is the examples above are minor compared to the devastation caused by coal-burning power plants of the midwest. These plants create tons of acid rain, and our forests and fish die as a result.

Even worse, our government lets them get away with it by selling carbon shares so they can legally pollute. I guess it's OK to do this, as long as someone is making money from it.

The future of our forests is in jeopardy. It's like an uncontrollable cancer.

All too often, we worry about the things we cannot change. If we stopped driving cars tomorrow, global warming _ if it actually exists _ would still happen. This planet has warmed up and cooled off millions of times before Henry Ford started producing the Model T.

Sustainable, renewable forests are part of the solution, though. Last fall, everyone wanted change, so let's make some that will benefit this great country for future generations to come.

Let's save our forests.

What's Happening?

The 15th annual Friends of the NRA banquet is set for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Oneonta Holiday Inn. For more information or tickets, call George Gollin at 607-432-9063 or e-mail leatherstocking@rnyany.org.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. E-mail him at robrockway@hotmail.com.

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