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Eddie Baggs: Sizing up the importance of our trees

Trees serve many purposes that improve our quality of life, environment and even the air we breathe. Among the most significant contributions of trees to the environment is the conservation of soil, water, energy and wildlife.

Strong Texas winds can blow clouds of dust across the state, removing tons of valuable topsoil. Trees serve as windbreaks that slow the wind at ground level and reduce airborne soil particles. Along creeks and rivers, tree roots hold stream banks firm against the erosive action of rushing water, improving water quality and reducing stream- and lake-bed sedimentation - which, in turn, preserves aquatic life.

Trees reduce home energy costs by blocking cold north winds and shading rooftops from 100-plus temperatures. Trees provide comfortable outdoor living areas with shade, privacy, and a place to climb and hang a swing.

Trees not only protect people, but pets and livestock as well. Livestock graze in the early morning and late afternoon. Trees provide shade during the heat of the day so that digestion may take place. The old saying "a cow laying under a shade tree, chewing her cud, is healthy" has some merit to it.

Conservation trees provide food and shelter for numerous wildlife species as well. They produce fruits, nuts and berries that supply a quality food source for many species of birds and mammals that overwinter in the area. They also provide nesting materials and cover for raising young, cover for loafing, protection from exposure to the harsh environment, and an escape haven for eluding predators.

In an effort to encourage the planting of conservation trees, the Denton County Soil and Water Conservation District has purchased tree seedlings from the Texas Forest Service, and makes them available to the public. Through this conservation program, more than 800 landowners in Denton County have planted more than 80,000 tree seedlings since 1991.

The conservation district has 11 varieties of hardwood and evergreen trees to choose from. The trees are sold in paper containers, by the bare root and in 1-gallon pots. Trees are preordered, and supplies are limited.

To place an order, call Mikel Thomas at the conservation district office at 940-383-2691, ext. 3. Orders will be taken now through Feb. 9 and the trees will be ready for pickup from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 17 at the North Texas State Fairgrounds, 2217 N. Carroll Blvd. in Denton.

EDDIE BAGGS, extension agent with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Denton County, can be reached at 940-349-2880.