How Do We Improve the Urban Forest?

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Jacaranda trees in Buenos Aires.

Green cities need a healthy urban forest, made up of street trees, park trees, and trees on private property. Trees clean the air, pump out oxygen, sequester carbon, lower air temperature, and provide shade. We can’t really have green city without healthy trees. More info here and here.

Most cities’ street trees have a tough life. They’re squeezed into a small boulevard space, and many are mutilated for power line clearance. Park and yard trees usually have a better fate, but the emerald ash borer will be fatal to any untreated ash trees it can find.

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A dying ash tree.

How do we improve the urban forest? The city of Madison, Wisconsin, has about 10% ash trees in its urban forest. It also has the Urban Tree Alliance, a unique organization with a compelling mission. From their web site:

“The Urban Tree Alliance is a non-profit organization serving the greater Madison, WI area. We grew out of a desire to elevate the level of care given to our urban forests as a whole. It is our goal to advocate for the urban forest; define and explain the benefits it provides; educate and demonstrate how to assure it’s health and growth; and act in service to property owners, community groups, municipalities, and anyone else who has a stake in the management of this communal resource.”

“To the best of our knowledge we are the only non-profit organization of our kind in existence.”

Urban Tree Alliance

Urban Tree Alliance

This group offers many of the services of other tree companies, but also offers subsidized tree care to people who make less than 80% of the county median income. Great idea! The UTA is also working on finding ways to use urban wood, such as for lumber and furniture. The abundance of ash trees that will be cut in the next decade will ensure a robust supply, and it’s a shame when useable trees end up chipped just to get rid of them.

The city of La Crosse has begun the process of removing the ash trees in parks and on the boulevards. It’s surprising to see so many stumps where there should be shade. It’s crucial that we learn, this time, not to overplant one species!

Pettibone Park is a lot less shady after more than 400 ash trees were cut.

Pettibone Park is a lot less shady after more than 400 ash trees were cut.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture