The tallest and strongest of pine trees, longleaf made great sailing ship masts
tar for caulking ships, and of course saw timber.
How the early settlers cut down trees for houses and to clear land to farm.
Their hogs and cows running loose in the woods ate the young longleaf,
suppressing new trees for a hundred years.
Then professional forestry took over, trying to suppress the
fire that destroyed northern white pine forests, yet which
preserves southern longleaf pine forests.
The sad story of turpentine: we knew better, but we did it anyway.
The peculiar life cycle of a tree that starts out looking like
a clump of grass, and can stay that way for decades, yet promotes
and survives fire and can grow more than 100 feet tall and live for centuries.
The thousands of species of plants, animals, and fungi the forest protects,
many of them, like wiregrass, also adapted to fire.
How tuberculosis and quail led to new understandings of longleaf and fire,
and the people who discovered those things.
We do know how to grow these trees now, and lots of people are doing it:
for jobs, for sawtimber, for the beauty of the forest.
The Valdosta Daily Times caught me working on being tactful.
writeup actually conflates two different county commission meetings, but gets the gist right:
The fate of the tree canopies lining the rural road were thought to hang in the balance. Several residents spoke in favor of the paving, citing dangerous conditions along the road during periods of stormy weather.
John and Gretchen Quarterman, whose ancestors lent their name to the country lane, led the fight to preserve the road in its original pristine dirt-road condition.
The forest along Quarterman Road is “a scrap of the longleaf fire forest that used to grow from southern Virginia to eastern Texas,” said John Quarterman following the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This forest has been here since the last ice age.”
Quarterman Road, pre-paving, was the kind of dirt road down which Huckleberry Finn might be envisioned skipping barefoot with a fishing rod projecting over one shoulder.
It was the kind of road near which Thoreau might have planted a cabin.
“Many people don’t know that a longleaf pine forest has more species diversity than anything outside a tropical rain forest,” Quarterman said. “In our woods, we have five species of blueberries, ...
Oh, the beaver will be mad. I forgot to mention the beaver.
The VDT has a good picture of Gretchen cutting the ribbon.
But it's not over just because one road project is completed:
“More people around the county seem to be paying attention these days. Commissioners tell us that already another road in the county has had its canopy saved during paving, and the commission has promised residents of Coppage Road that if their road is paved, their canopy will be saved. Commissioners even seem to like the idea of recognizing canopy roads as a feature of quality of life for residents of the county and for visitors.”
We have a forest. The county just has roads.
Now let's go see what they're doing to the rest of our roads. And schools, and waste management, and biofuels, and industry....
If you'd like to help, please contact the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.