"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." - Thoreau

Friday, September 19, 2014

What I Could Have Said

Yesterday, I had one of those 'yes, but' moments you run across at the worst possible time.  You want to go back and clarify things, but you just can't.  The moment is past and you just keep second guessing yourself.  I can get that way sometimes and those times usually just roll off my shoulder. 

Not this time.

This time, I left myself exposed and it didn't feel comfortable.  What is it I could have said?

The topic was the Great Trinity Forest.  I don't need to go to greater detail on any particulars, because the forest as a whole is of tremendous importance.  If I am asked to distinguish one part of the forest against the other, I should never state that one part of the forest rates above the other.  But I left it open.  The Forest is the forest. It is not for me to provide value to parts of the forest, personally, when I am not the direct beneficiary of that part.  I cannot speak for the flora and fauna, both now and in the future, that would find value in that land.  I respect the land and its inhabitants as part of our community.  I respect not only what is at this moment, but what it is growing to be in the future. I must not get lost in the very human tendency to find a financial, or personal aesthetic, value for that land and tree stand that is not agreed upon universally.  This is where I went for that one moment.

For those who are not aware, the Great Trinity Forest is among the largest urban bottomland hardwood forests in the world.  It is a rather young forest where much of the land had been cultivated, mined, or otherwise disturbed over the roughly 150 year history of Dallas County colonization.  There are some pockets of tall, mature trees while you also have open ranges where pioneer tree species have started to establish themselves over the past half century.  There are broad acreages of young ash and elm stands across the floodplain which encompasses most of the forest.  

The Great Trinity Forest is mostly in 100-year flood plain, by FEMA designation, while it has some areas that are not. It's these elevated pockets of 'developable' land where new projects are being encouraged as part of a recreation and economic growth value to the forest.  Much of the impact to the forest will occur there, but some of the area that is no longer in floodplain was taken out by the placement of illegal landfills decades ago.  The landfills are now being used for the construction of high quality championship golf courses.  In the process, we still lose more forest area to support the projects. 

So, I could have said that one stand of trees, as grand as a tall graceful stand of mature pecan and oak, has no greater importance to me than a larger population of younger and smaller mixed species of trees, scattered across an old range.  One has to see both with the eyes of a land ethic that values both for their selected benefits. I'm not only looking at the forest of today, but I am looking into a time capsule of an ever-growing and changing dynamic.  It's one moment in time. What I may value aesthetically may not provide much benefit to a box turtle or a sandpiper or a beaver in their day-to-day activities.  God help me when I put my urban blinders on to look at our beloved forest.  I lose vision quickly.

The key point to understand, perhaps, is that all the changes and 'improvements' we engineer in this Great Trinity Forest will age and decay - even faster than we will.  The forest, for what we allow to remain, will continue to grow, thrive, die, grow again, and continually renew into a engine of growth.  It can be managed for our purposes, but it will always be the forest that will take all we throw at it and be great regardless of our input.