I represent The Woodlands GREEN, a grass roots organization providing environmental education and outreach since 1989. I’m here to speak for saving Jones Forest in its entirety.
As the Texas Forest Service states on its website, “The forest’s location and special ecological distinctiveness makes it one of the region’s unique resources for showcasing research and demonstration in urban forestry issues, environmental education, atmospheric studies, … improving communities’ health and outdoor nature connections, and connecting diverse community members to the benefits of natural resource conservation through continuing education.”
Because of residential and commercial development in this area, green space such as Jones Forest is a precious jewel that provides increasingly rare habitat for a protected species, the red cockaded woodpecker. The red-cockaded woodpecker is a cooperative breeder, living in family groups. The home range of one family group can exceed 200 acres, a little more than 10 percent of Jones Forest. This woodpecker is also particular about where it chooses to live, which is why the population in the United States declined by 86 percent from 1966 through 2014. It depends on old growth southern pine forests for food and habitat. Urban and suburban development is not this bird’s friend.
Jones Forest provides much needed habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker, but that bird isn’t the only species that needs this green space. It also provides a much-needed respite for humans.
In reviewing Florence Williams recent book, THE NATURE FIX, Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, the reviewer wrote, “Imagine a miracle drug that could ease many of the stresses of modern life — a combination mood enhancer and smart pill that might even encourage the remission of cancer. Now imagine that this cure-all was an old-fashioned folk remedy: Just take a hike in the woods or a walk in the park.”
In this book, Ms. Williams describes the findings of researchers working in the field of nature neuroscience. “As little as 15 minutes in the woods has been shown to reduce test subjects’ levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Increase nature exposure to 45 minutes, and most individuals experience improvements in cognitive performance…. Maybe it’s the forest smells that turn us on; aerosols present in evergreen forests act as mild sedatives while also stimulating respiration. Perhaps it’s the soundscape, since water and, especially, birdsong have been proven to improve mood and alertness. Nature’s benefits might be due to something as simple as the fact that natural landscapes are, literally, easy on the eyes.”
Sufficient and appropriate land is available in this area for development that Texas A & M apparently envisions. The Woodlands GREEN strongly encourages the legislature to take no action on Senator Creighton’s bill, leaving Jones Forest as it is.
Also, we encourage Texas A&M and the Texas Forest Service to pursue additional protection for this unique public forest rather than looking at it as a site for future development.