Fight for old-growth forests subject of Sweet Briar’s Waxter Forum

Joan Maloof, professor emeritus at Salisbury University in Maryland and founder of the Old-Growth Forest Network, will present Sweet Briar College’s annual Julia B. Waxter Environmental Forum.

Her talk, “The Healthiest Forest — Biodiversity and Old Growth,” will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, in the Boxwood Room at The Conference Center. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Joan Maloof founded the Old-Growth Forest Network.
Joan Maloof founded the Old-Growth Forest Network.

Sweet Briar’s Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Ecology Linda Fink also will speak briefly about the forests found on the College’s 3,250-acre campus. Professor Fink, who for 26 years has been studying Sweet Briar’s woods, fields and freshwater habitats, will lead a forest walk with Maloof at 3 p.m. Interested participants should meet at The Conference Center entrance and come prepared with sturdy footwear and long pants.

Maloof wants to halt the decline of Earth’s forests. According to a news release from the Old-Growth Forest Network, she has considered how to achieve that goal as a scientist, a teacher, an author, an activist, and now, as a nonprofit director. She will share stories from her journey, discuss studies showing why unmanaged forests have more biodiversity than managed forests, and talk about the organization she founded and the difference it is making.

Maloof conceived the idea for OGFN, found online at oldgrowthforest.net, in 2007, but it took off in 2011 after she left her university position. Its mission is to connect people to nature by creating a national network of mature native forests that people can visit. The group works with private landowners, conservation organizations and local governments to identify, protect and publicize woodlands that exist in their natural or near-natural state.

“These future old-growth forests will be our generation’s gift to the generations coming after us,” Maloof says. “If we are able to reverse the decline in mature native forests, we will be the first generation to have done so. It is our hope that those who experience the beauty and the spirit found in ancient forests will be inspired to protect them. When we protect forests, we also protect biodiversity, clean water and clean air.”

The network’s goal is to preserve at least one unlogged forest that is open to the public in every county in the United States that can sustain it — roughly 2,370 out of 3,140 counties.

Maloof is the author of two books, “Teaching the Trees: Lessons from the Forest” and “Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests.” She founded the environmental studies program at Salisbury University and has experienced many of this nation’s old-growth forests firsthand.

The Waxter Forum is funded through the generosity of the late Julia Baldwin Waxter ’49 and her husband, Bill. For more information, please email lfink@sbc.edu or call (434) 381-6436.