Memories of a Maryland forest

Fallen tree gives snow a place to sit

The forest patch in my Maryland backyard has always been a part of my life and is filled with fond memories. This patch is one of the last remaining outposts of nature amongst the rapid development in Frederick’s outskirts, cut off from its brethren.

Yet this small patch has been thriving for decades.

The forest undergoes wondrous transformations with the changing of the seasons. During spring every plant ardently strives to be the largest; every centimeter of their delicate foliage strains for the Sun. When summer arrives, schools of industrious minnows snatch insects off the surface of the gurgling creek. As summer wanes into autumn, the trees explode into a whirlwind of brilliant, dazzling color. Winter ushers in the end of the year as the slumbering forest is gently bundled into a fluffy white blanket. Birds of all species emerge from the trees and crowd my mother’s bird-feeders in a flock of color: cardinal red, junco gray, and sparrow brown..

But this patch is a mere scrap compared to the magnificent National Forests, particularly the untouched Roadless areas. According to the Forest Service, the 58.5 million acres of roadless forests are indispensible to wildlife as they tend to have older and rarer trees than non-protected areas. These forests provide irreplaceable ecological services to both people and wildlife. They keep our waterways clean, provide unparalleled recreation, filter our air, preserve our soil, sequester carbon, and more.

“Although roadless areas represent less than 1 percent of the American landmass, they serve as a reservoir of rare and vanishing values,” according to former Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck. “They provide clean drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife, abundant hunting and fishing, recreation opportunities, reference areas for research, and barriers against noxious and invasive species.” Roadless areas are also highly productive economically. In 1984 alone, roadless areas in Colorado provided over $60 million in recreation revenue to the state.

My great hope is that the U.S. continues to expand the roadless areas in light of their significant ecological and economic benefits. As a child, I took many creek walks with my mother and sister in our backyard forest. I can only imagine the splendor of hiking in a national forest.

Learn more: See a chronology of the Roadless rule

Photo: Fallen tree gives snow a place to sit in Maryland.

Photo courtesy of: Sarah Peters