Tree Study for the Birds

The article "Little Room to Breathe for Older Forests" [Oct. 24th] left me breathless, too.

The study purports to show that since 1973 (I was the Loudoun County director of planning that year, so I suppose the tree loss is all my fault), there has been a net gain of trees, per se, but to put a negative spin on this gain, the study states that the Virginia cedars--called junipers in this study--are "not as desirable," because they lack the "diversity of habitat" that attracts and sustains a variety of birds and other wildlife.

Do they really now? As most high school students know, the cycle of tree cover as we witness it in the eastern Piedmont always begins with cleared ground, which permits sunlight to nurture grasses and brush, which in turn attracts birds and critters, which, along with the wind, spread the seeds of the junipers. These cedars, hardy and opportunistic as they are, do easily take root. They are tough trees that can survive drought conditions and cold winters, so they prosper.

In Loudoun, open fields have occurred in two ways. First, in pre-Columbian times, nomadic Indian tribes burned over much of the Loudoun Valley in hopes of scaring up game. It worked. Later, our pioneering farmers cleared much of the eastern Loudoun piedmont woodland--usually only the trees that grew over the more easily workable soils, leaving the more difficult soil areas for wood lots. These are the "large tracts of forests" reported by Mr. Fuller's study.

It doesn't take much to see that soils that are suitable for farming are also likely suitable for housing developments. Hence, the farm pastures of eastern Loudoun County are targets for the building community, and the farmers who work them tend to take their lands out of production in anticipation of development. That's when the cedars quickly take over. But that's not bad.

Without the "trash trees," as my friend and mentor Dorn McGrath calls them, no proper matrix for the growth of taller, more attractive pines can occur. And similarly, with Virginia pines and hemlock, and the like, no hardwoods can take root. It's a cycle, you see, moving toward a climax vegetation state, and we need each element for the next to occur. When you see the "trash trees," take the long view: 70 years from now, if left alone, it will be tulip poplar, maples and oaks you see. Promise.

But one last thing.

Mr. Fuller, a fellow geographer who is said to be in charge of this project, is quoted as saying that "songbirds don't like to fly over subdivisions." But don't lose heart, all of you suburbanites who buy pounds of birdseed to fill your feeders for the cardinals and wrens and nuthatches so prevalent in Ashburn. We will look forward to his presentation Dec. 2, when he attempts to substantiate this egregiously unscholarly comment.

Perhaps Fuller has interviewed the sparrows I have seen nesting among the neon signs at the Prosperity Center shopping center in Leesburg and has learned from speaking with the birds that they do in fact have a distaste for overflying shopping centers. I personally have considered speaking with the birds myself to corroborate Mr. Fuller's insight, but recently I have not been so motivated. Either Fuller's remarks are misstated, or they are for the birds.



NAACP Will Police the Chief

For many years, the Loudoun County NAACP received complaints from its members and other citizens regarding disrespectful treatment by the Leesburg Police Department. People complained of harassment, rude treatment and being stopped for no reason. Young minority men were most often the targets.

Members of the NAACP met with then-Chief [Keith A.] Stiles to discuss these complaints and to voice our concerns. We were encouraged by his assurance that such mistreatment of any citizens would not be tolerated and that any complaint from a citizen would be fully investigated. Chief Stiles initiated a policy of neighborhood policing, which brought the community and the department closer together.

The NAACP welcomed these policies put in place by the former chief of police. Since the Town of Leesburg benefited from those policies and is currently seeking a replacement for Chief Stiles, the NAACP requests that requirements for such a position include experience and proven ability to deal with a diverse population fairly. Additionally, the new chief of police must have a proven record of leadership and vision that is deeply rooted in building community relations as well as safe neighborhoods.

It should be understood that we are a community of many colors, races and religions. Every individual deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of race or belief. It is essential that those from whom we seek help and protection understand this. The NAACP will not tolerate harassment, willful mistreatment or disrespect of any citizen by officials, regardless of the reason. We will continue to monitor actions of the Leesburg Police Department and its leaders for high standards of fairness and equitable treatment of our citizens. We are sure that the Town Council shares in our belief that all officials must strive to ensure that no person feels alienated from the government's protection and services.



Loudoun County NAACP