04/30/2012 01:48 pm ET Updated Jun 30, 2012

Reversing Deforestation Is Complicated; Planting a Tree Is Simple

Acceptance Speech for the Arbor Day Foundation Vision Award
April 28, 2012
Nebraska City, Nebraska

Thank you all very much, not only for this very kind recognition of Maryland's environmental leadership and positive choices, but thank you also for the great work of the Arbor Day Foundation. Your kind recognition reflects the hard work of thousands of people in Maryland including Steve Koehn, our
State Forester, and, John Griffin, our Secretary of Natural Resources -- both of whom are here tonight.

There is a story about a child who asks her grandfather: "Grandfather, we've learned all about the importance of trees, how they can help the environment, clean the air, and filter storm water run-off. When's the best time to plant a tree?" Her grandfather says, "Well, it takes time for those roots to go deep and for branches to spread... and so the most important time to plant a tree is 20 years ago." And the little girl asks, "Well, when is the next best time to plant a tree?" The grandfather responds:"Right now."

The vital connection between our forests and our children's future has never been more important, or more threatened, than it is right now.

Together for the last several thousand years we have been co-authors with Creation of the emerging story of the Earth -- that fundamental truth that gives context to the story of our shared humanity. But right now the Earth, which determined its own movement forward over these millennia, is seeing its immediate future determined by the choices and actions of us -- of human beings: the one species most capable of manipulating our environment, and the only species intellectually capable of free choice.

Reversing deforestation is complicated; planting a tree is simple.

The essential question for us, right now, is whether we have the capacity to grow.

In Maryland we consider ourselves pro-growth Americans.

You see, we believe in growing jobs, and growing opportunity. Like you, we believe in children growing healthy, growing educated, and growing strong. We believe in grandparents growing old with dignity and love. Like you we believe in growing trees, growing stream buffers, growing food for a hungry world.

Together, we are called upon to accomplish what Thomas Berry called, "The Great Work"; what Aldo Leopold described as the evolutionary development of a third great ethic -- the Ethic of Land.

It is the work of healing and restoring the common good we share with all natural beings. Growing in our mindfulness... growing in our awareness,.. growing in our understanding of the balance we must rediscover and reconcile with the other living systems of this one Earth -- the Earth we choose to share, or not share, with future generations.

Human choices have become terribly powerful things on this finite globe... smart, green and growing

For Maryland we choose a future that is smart, green, and growing.

We choose to plant trees, to grow oysters, to restore the blue crab.

With science, the Internet, and SmartMaps, we choose to protect our Open Space; to map and restore our Greenprint; to defend and protect our Agprint; to monitor and restore our Streamhealth.

Upgrading to better sewage treatment technology; implementing better farming practices; employing better, more sustainable forestry management.

Creating a future with no net forest loss; ensuring that 40 percent of all land in our State is covered by trees and forests by the year 2020.

Protecting high quality forests, encouraging the retention of working lands, and promoting family-owned forest stewardship.

Environmental Literacy.


Restorative Justice.

Conservation by Design.

We choose to do all of these things, and we choose to do them... right now.

For as a great man once observed, "... there is an absolute direction to growth... Life advances in that direction... life is never mistaken, either about its road or its destination... It tells toward what part of the horizon we must steer if we are to see the dawn light grow more intense."

Thank you very much.

Watch the video from the Foundation to learn more.