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CROZET--The precious white oaks of Stadium Woods on the Virginia Tech campus are centuries-old trees that cannot be re-created by man or technology once they are gone. A significant number of them are known to be at least 300 to 400 years old, sporting diameters of 3 to 4 feet.
No one would think he shouldn't do his best to preserve a precious painting 300 to 400 years old, even though it could easily be re-created by a talented artist or even a computer. Yet Virginia Tech officials do not want to place Stadium Woods--which is probably without equal in the entire country--into a conservation easement.
These trees could live another 200 years, making this old-growth forest fragment even more special than it already is. This fact should be reason enough for Tech to do everything in its power to preserve Stadium Woods.
Unfortunately, society has become so focused on human endeavors that man and his activities have become the only game in town, literally. As a result, green space has become distressingly rare in developed areas. People see natural areas as wasted space and covet them for yet more buildings.
The result is a populace more and more disconnected from the natural world and thus more and more unaware of the importance of nature to their lives. One would hope that a land-grant university, especially, should be taking steps to educate students about the environment that sustains them.
Students who don't comprehend life in the real world of plants and other kinds of organisms may find it difficult to survive in the future. People need to understand that humans do not live in
Our existence is very much dependent upon the multitude of organisms and their interactions with one another that take place every day. For example, plants provide the oxygen we need to breathe, while pollinating organisms, such as beetles, bees, bats, and hummingbirds, are responsible for helping about one-third of our crop plants to make the food we eat. Pollinators are also responsible for helping about 90 percent of all plant life to reproduce.
Thus Stadium Woods, where people can be introduced to and learn about nature, is far more valuable to students and to the entire community than a building will ever be.
A cover story in the Aug. 9 edition of the Virginia Tech student newspaper, Collegiate Times, is headlined "Children's camps inspire outdoor discovery." What better place to bring children than to an area of mighty oaks that have survived the test of time?
In spite of a multitude of natural threats, many of these oaks were perhaps already 200 years old when Virginia Tech opened its doors on Oct. 1, 1872. And now, more than a hundred years later, they still stand,
They've persisted through severe weather in the form of drought, hail, deep snow, and, quite recently, the derecho. The trees have managed to support numerous organisms that feed upon oak leaves. And they've managed to stay well enough to fight off diseases that could have brought about their demise
The oaks have survived manmade challenges as well. Workers have shamelessly dumped concrete and asphalt in the woods, along with plants that survive and usurp precious space from native plant species. Suburbia has moved in alongside the woods, bringing with it non-native plants that spread into the woods and can seriously impact the health of the old trees.
These oaks deserve great respect and admiration, but Stadium Woods will continue to face threats to its continuing existence unless steps are taken to protect it.
This old-growth forest fragment is priceless. It's important for everyone who understands the uniqueness of these monumental oaks to speak up for the permanent preservation of Stadium Woods.
Please contact Dr. Charles W. Steger by email at presi
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at Office of the President, 210 Burruss Hall, Blacksburg, Va. 24061.
Marlene A. Condon graduated from Virginia Tech in 1979 with a degree in physics. She is the author/photographer of "The Nature-friendly Garden: Creating a Backyard Haven for Plants, Wildlife, and People."