Tree conservation

CONSERVATION EFFORTS include planting trees and replacing wind breaks, as shown in this photo.

Tree conservation isn’t just for the hippies — it affects everyone in Nebraska from farmers to motorists to homeowners looking to cut down on their heating and cooling bills.

Even people who find the summers to be a bit too dusty for breathing comfort should be concerned with tree conservation, as it helps to control the amount of sediment (dust) flying around in the air due to wind erosion.

Pam Bergstrom, forester at the Lower Elkhorn NRD for the past nine years, is in charge of the conservation tree and shrub program.

She not only designs and plants windbreaks in rural areas, Bergstrom also goes out into the communities to do tree inventories and helps to plan for future planting as well as removal of trees.

Bergstrom’s passion for trees stems from a childhood project with her father.

“We built a house back in ’88, and we put a windbreak up. It was my job after school to water and take care of those trees, and my dad and an extension agent designed our windbreak. I started asking questions — why is this tree planted this way? Why did we plant this species? And so forth. And what was a non-paying job turned into a paying career,” she said.

That curiosity and desire to learn has followed Bergstrom into adulthood, to the point where she’s currently working on obtaining her master’s degree in agroforestry.

She said not everyone understands the importance of windbreaks in rural areas and the positive effects they can have.

“If planted correctly, a windbreak can disperse the snow evenly across a field. It can actually reduce the amount of heating and cooling during the summer and winter. It definitely helps with wind erosion, and it has been proven that conservation trees if put around a homestead or a building site, actually increases the value of the farm,” Bergstrom said.

Community windbreaks can help with collecting nutrients out of the soil before they reach the aquifer, she said.

“New York City did something where they planted millions of trees in their watershed, and it actually increased their water quality by so much that they didn’t have to put in as many chemicals into regulating (the water). Instead of investing in reverse osmosis and chemicals, they invested in trees,” Bergstrom said.

She’s currently studying the affect of trees on livestock and how windbreaks can be used to keep animals warm during the winter.

“This last winter, especially, we had the wind that was cold and nasty. Livestock windbreaks are specifically designed to shelter them from the wind. I’m even looking at doing a study for my master’s on how windbreaks help with calf development, especially diseases and calf weight,” she said.

Bergstrom is a huge proponent of tree conservation, and she encourages individuals to find out for themselves the benefits of planting trees, be it an entire windbreak on their farm or even just a sapling in their backyard.

“Learn about conservation. But the big thing is to get out and enjoy our wildlife areas and understand it’s not just about the trees — there’s this whole ecosystem of grasses, forbs, shrubs, trees and even the water. Everything is interconnected,” she said.

And that includes us.

“There’s been so many studies done that show just going outside and walking in nature for 30 minutes, walking in a park, walking in a wilderness area actually decreases stress, helps your immune system and it also helps your mental and physical health.”

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For more information, contact Pam Bergstrom at pbergstrom@lenrd.org.

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