Salisbury University professor Joan Maloof first became interested in the local forests in the 90s, when she witnessed natural areas disappearing overnight.
“When forests are cut down, we lose 95 percent of the area’s wildlife,” Maloof said. She added that less than 0.2 percent of Maryland’s original forests remain today.
Maloof spoke on her research of the Eastern Shore forests in a lecture on Monday. Maloof has been charting the tree species present in the Nassawango preserve, a small site located between Wicomico and Worcester counties.
Maloof conducted a walking survey; she walked down each of Nassawango’s 47 tracts, recording the types of trees present.
Most geographic maps show Nassawango as one, uniform forest. However, Maloof’s research confirmed her instinct that the area was very diverse.
“Walking through Nassawango, it didn’t feel like just one type of forest,” Maloof said. “It seemed to change.”
She then used her data to analyze the area and made recommendations for preservation and restoration. She noted that all tracts should be expected to contain certain ubiquitous species, but certain areas were more specialized, requiring special attention.
“But then what?” Maloof asked. “How is (this research) really going to make a difference?”
She then described her ultimate goal: to set aside a protected forest in every county in the U.S.
“We can’t bring back the original forests, but maybe we can bring back old growth forests,” Maloof said. She noted that there are approximately 3,400 state counties in the U.S., and 2,100 can support forests.
Maloof’s plan would designate one forest in each U.S. county that would never again be logged. Maloof predicted that, in time, these areas would reacquire old-forest characteristics.
Maloof began her initiative in Wicomico County. However, she faced some challenges: Wicomico County has no national or state parks. It does contain 16,000 acres of state forest; however, when she inquired, Maloof found that none of the areas are safe from logging. She was directed to a cluster of protected areas, and she found that these areas consisted primarily of marshland. The one available wooded area was used as a hunting ground.
“It’s a glitch,” Maloof said. “But we haven’t ruled it out completely yet.”
She is currently looking at public and private properties in the area as potential targets.
Maloof has also begun to implement her initiative in other counties. She is discussing the idea in Montgomery County, which is home to several older and diverse parks. She has also set up a designated area in Berkshire County, Mass.
She explained that this project will leave a legacy for generations to come. She hopes to bring in younger people, who she notes have become “increasingly disconnected with nature.”
“Imagine that in each of these counties, there will be a forest that will never be destroyed,” Maloof said. “You could visit the forest every day and bring in the next generation.”
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