Community Plants Final Trees of the Millennium Forest on Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
April 7, 2004
Artists, students, environmentalists, refuge personnel, and politicians united today to plant the final trees of the Millennium Forest on Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (PLNWR) in Columbia, North Carolina. The final Atlantic White Cedar (AWC) was planted in the Millennium Forest by Congressman Walter B. Jones, Jr. More than 300 students from Tyrrell County Public Schools began planting the last of the 1,000 trees before the 10 a.m. commemoration.
AWC, also called “juniper,” is considered a globally threatened plant community by The Nature Conservancy. This forest restoration project was designed to engage the community in the restoration and conservation of AWC. The project brings together the arts, culture, and the environment. The forest was designed by Eastern Carolina University faculty and modeled after the 7,000 Oaks forest in urban Germany by Joseph Beuys, German environmental artist.
“Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge has always been very special to me,” said Congressman Jones. “Because of the leadership in the community, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the local schools and Ms. Feather Phillips, we have this wonderful project.”
“The local leadership, the schools and the federal government are working together and the future is bright,” said Jones. “What happens today is going to create opportunities for tomorrow,” he said. “To the students, what you are doing will be remembered in the future,” continued Jones. “When we, you and I, give back to the soil, we are giving back to the future of Tyrrell County.”
It was Feather Phillips, Executive Director of Pocosin Arts, who came up with the ideal and was the energy behind the project which began in 2000 to mark the beginning of the millennium.
“Feather has been the champion of the 7,000 Juniper project,” said Howard Phillips, PLNWR Refuge Manager. “She had a vision of bringing the arts, culture and the environment together in a community project” said Phillips. The Millennium Forest is that project.”
“Shortly after Pocosin Arts opened in 1996, we began thinking about planning an event to celebrate the new millennium,” said Ms. Phillips. “The Pocosin wilderness is our home and what a better way to mark the Millennium than by working with large numbers of people in a creative act to help restore the integrity of our home,” said Phillips.
Columbia high school student Rodrigo Ruiz voiced the feelings of the students when he said “The closer we are to Mother Nature, the closer we are to ourselves. Life is nature. Nature is life.”
“Eastern North Carolina is a special place,” said Bud Oliveria, Deputy Chief, Refuges for the Southeast Region, Atlanta, Georgia. “Here, you have realized the interconnections between your culture, the arts, and the environment,” he said. “It is partnership approaches like the one we are celebrating today that will ensure that we conserve both our natural, artistic and cultural heritage for generations to come.”
To celebrate life and to give back to the area the Carolina Raptor Society released a bald eagle that had been found in the area and nursed back to health at the center.
“The journey of this eagle has been like the Millennium Forest, both have had a lot of hands on it in order for it to have a successful outcome,” said Alan Barnhardt, Executive Director, Carolina Raptor Society. “Raptors are an indicator of a healthy environment and I know this eagle will continue to be a part of the future of this forest.”
Currently visitors to the welcome center at PLNWR the “Walter B. Jones Center for the Sounds,” will be treated to an exhibit on the AWC and Millennium Forest project. This event was a capstone to the Refuge System Centennial and the exhibit will be one of the featured projects this summer at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., in July.
Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife
and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife
Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands
of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates
69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices
and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal
wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory
bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves
and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign
governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the
Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions
of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state
fish and wildlife agencies.
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