Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   




Fort Worth Forest Gains Recognition  

An ancient forest in Fort Worth has received a venerable new distinction. The forest, a Western Cross Timbers remnant in the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, has become the first in Texas to be accepted into the national Old-Growth Forest Network.

“The Cross Timbers are not the tallest and they’re not the largest trees, but they contain centuries within those trees, and that’s magnificent,” said Sarah Adloo, the network’s executive director, who joined Fort Worth Nature Center staff and several Fort Worth dignitaries to celebrate the recognition. 

The Old-Growth Forest Network is a national nonprofit based in Maryland whose aim is to “identify and help protect one forest in each county of the U.S. where forests could grow,” according to its website. The forest at the Fort Worth Nature Center is the 200th in the network.

Almost all of the original forests in the U.S. have been logged or disturbed in some way. Only 1 percent remains in the eastern U.S. and 5 percent in the western U.S.

Instead of a ribbon cutting for the Fort Worth Nature Center event, organizers strung a log across the trailhead, to be cut using a century-old crosscut saw, the kind of saw that was used to cut down trees in the region, said Nature Center manager Rob Denkhaus.

Denkhaus said that more than a hundred years ago, the city purchased land around the newly built Lake Worth to protect water quality. That was the beginning of a tradition of stewardship of these oak woodlands, which otherwise might have been cut down.

Today, the wooded area, filled with predominantly post oaks and blackjack oaks, features trees estimated to be more than 250 years old.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Old-Growth Forest Network say that forests have cultural as well as ecological roles. They can represent history, a place of belonging or identity, and a source of learning and inspiration. The old forests also support a complex network of canopy layers and plant and animal species, providing nesting places and sources of food, as well as nurturing seedlings, sequestering carbon and building soil.

The Fort Worth Nature Center lies within the Cross Timbers, a complex mosaic of woodlands and grasslands that form a broad ecological region between the deciduous forests to the east and the grasslands of the southern Great Plains. The ancient Western Cross Timbers forest once extended from southern Kansas into North Texas.  

 Michael Smith | Greensource DFW;  Rex Stewart



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