ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness about forest management and conservation and development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations.

At Aberdeen Proving Ground, forest lands are an important part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and sustaining their functions is the key to improving the Bay's health while insuring successful execution of the Army's testing and training missions.

According to environmentalists in the Directorate of Public Works' Environmental Division, healthy forests here at APG provide many valuable environmental benefits such as wildlife habitats, shoreline stability, noise buffers, dust and particulate material migration reduction, visual cover for testing and training.

Forests also remove carbon and other air pollutants, reduce sediment and other water pollutants, release oxygen, help moderate the climate by releasing water into the air and providing shade, filter and trap pollutants, moderate floods, store nutrients and water and help prevent erosion.

Scott English, a DPW forester said federal statutes require Department of Defense installations and facilities to establish and maintain resource management plans.

Aberdeen Proving Ground is responsible steward for forest resources," English said. "We plant trees along streams, near the bay and along water ways to ensure good regeneration of healthy

He said that both the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review resources management plans.

"Then they tell us what it needs or lacks," he said. "This provides APG with a roadmap to ecosystem management requirement.

Worldwide, forests are also an integral part of global sustainable development. According to World Bank estimates, more than 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods.

The forest product industry is a source of economic growth and employment, with global forest products traded internationally in the order of $270 billion, with the U.S. trading in the order of $30 billion.

Forests are a vital resource which produce well known forest products like paper products, lumber, flooring, furniture, and forest products and lesser known products like cosmetics, anticancer drugs and chewing gum.

"More than 5,000 products come from wood," said English, "and with the world's population soaring to more than 6 billion, the demand on the nation's forests has never been greater."

Firewood and wood pellets are two of the products obtained from trees that are considered "green energy." Pellets are a renewable fuel made of ground, low-grade green and dry
wood and other biomass by-products and wastes compressed into wood pellets.

Pellets are one of the cleanest burning, and heating appliances available today deliver high BTUs and overall efficiency.

English explained that because they pollute so little, pellet stoves do not require EPA certification. Wood pellets are considered to be "CO2 neutral" by many environmentalists, which basically mean that even though they do produce CO2 when burned, the material was once part of a tree that lived on CO2, so the two factors cancel each other out.

APG and other DoD installations are legally required to receive a fair market value for any and all forest products removed from the garrison to accomplish mission and ecosystem management

The Army also works with the local community by returning 40 percent of the net proceeds to the local counties in the form of a state's entitlement payment, said English.

Chemicals and other tree components are found in many everyday products -- not just in furniture and building materials! There is some part of a tree in tires, paint, adhesives, cereals, chewing gum, hair spray, mouthwash, shampoo, toothpaste, even Twinkies®!

Of all the common building products, wood requires the lowest amount of energy to produce, has the least impact on air and water quality, and comes from the world's most renewable resource: trees.

The North American forest products industry is responsible for planting well over half of the 2.15 billion trees planted each year.

The success of these efforts was reflected in the last two United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's "State of the World's Forests" reports, which indicated that forest cover had
increased by 20 percent in the last 30 years.

As part of the continuing practice of responsible stewardship with natural resources, APG has increased forest coverage from 3,300 acres in 1933 more than 15,000 acres in 2009, according to

The Chesapeake Bay watershed encompasses more than 64,000 square miles in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, and is home to 17 million people.

Fifty-eight percent of the watershed is still forested and 90 percent consists of citizen-owned, small wooded lots.

"However, the watershed is losing forests at a rate of 100 acres a day due to development pressures and other threats such as invasive species, fragmentation and overabundant deer populations," said English.

For more information about the United Nations International Year of Forests, visit http://www.