When I think of northern Michigan, my first thought is of the trees. The smell of pine needles on a hot still summer afternoon, the incredible riot of autumn color, skinny sentinels standing guard all winter, the moment of spring giddiness when the first buds emerge. Michigan’s trees are stressed now – since the great logging era ended 100 years ago, age, disease, and climate change have decimated millions more trees, and recent trends of not re-planting what is “harvested,” have already changed the northern Michigan my niece and nephew’s children will see. Ash, Beech, Oak, Spruce and Fir are all under threat or dying from insects, fungus, or disease. Hemlock could be next.
Michigan still has 19.3 million acres of forest – that’s more than 50% of the state’s land – so these trees are critical to our identity. The diversity and mix of trees are also critical to the wildlife we have here.
When the trees are gone, the birds and the birdsong will be gone too. The silence will be deafening.