By Elise Mulder
Tree huggers, get ready to celebrate. The United Nations General Assembly has officially declared 2011 as The International Year of Forests. The purpose of this designation is to encourage awareness and discussion about management and preservation of the world’s forests.
The celebratory campaign focuses on four areas of impact: Clean air and water, ecosystem health, economic health, and community/personal health. Recognizing the need to protect or preserve the ecosystems that forests provide, the U.N. hopes to inspire people across the globe to consider the social, economic, and personal enrichment that forests bring to our world.
The official International Year of Forests webpage provides photos, videos, event lists, and facts relating to forests, their conservation, and sustainable forest development.
For instance, nearly 30 percent of the United States’ terrestrial area is forested. The economic and ecologic importance of these areas is considerable, since forests provide society with a variety of indirect services including temperature moderation and water filtration.
Conferences, lectures, and celebrations are planned in a number of international locations for this year’s celebration, and already 25 countries and two non-governmental organizations have provided outlines, declarations, or webpages that promote the theme.
The U.S. plan to support The International Year of Forests is available at celebrateforests.com, and the site’s motto is ÛÏCelebrate Forests, Celebrate Life.Û
The U.S. campaign was designed through the collaboration of The National Association of State Foresters, the U.S. Forest Service, and the American Forest Foundation. Many other organizations are participating in the forest campaign as well and offer additional information about forests and forest protection.
For interested members of the public, celebrateforests.com offers a search box to find local events, articles on specific events, and ways for individuals to become involved in simple daily ways.
Recommended ways to get involved range from hosting your own celebration to taking a walk in a forest. Scheduled upcoming events vary by location.
For example, June Steamboat Springs, Colorado, will host a tree planting and educational exposition; Washington, D.C., will offer a World Children’s Festival event; and Vancouver, Washington, will recognize National Get Outdoors Day.