Trees Play a Key Role in a Sustainable Urban Future

By Heather Doucet

Though trees aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about city living, urban forests are integral to ensuring and enhancing the quality of life in densely populated areas. Trees and green spaces provide a range of environmental and social benefits that can address some of the most persistent issues facing our cities today, from health and well-being, to social and economic indicators and equity, to resilience and climate change. Indeed, with more than two-thirds of the world’s population projected to be living in urban environments by 2050, the future of urban forestry and the future of the very livability of our cities are inextricably intertwined. What’s more, innovative projects and organizations in cities across the country can show the way to other communities looking to harness the power of trees for a more sustainable future.

What Trees Bring to Cities

While it’s fairly intuitive that trees are a positive, concerns about maintenance costs and other considerations can sometimes counter the notion in people’s mind that “trees are good.” Fortunately, there is plenty of strong evidence to support a significant investment in trees for a variety of reasons.

Improving Health and Well-Being

Urban trees remove over 710,000 tons of air pollution per year in the U.S., which has a major impact on fighting respiratory illnesses like asthma. Trees also filter up to 80% of phosphorus out of stormwater before it pollutes waterways and drinking water. And tree canopy shade, along with evapotranspiration (the return of water vapor from trees and vegetation back to the atmosphere), can lower peak temperatures by 2°-9°F—a key tool in combating the heat island effect present in many cities, which disproportionately impacts lower-income neighborhoods and other vulnerable populations.

Enhancing Neighborhoods

By providing inviting gathering spaces, grass cover and trees can strengthen ties between neighbors, encourage healthy children’s play, and discourage crime. In New Haven, CT, for example, a ten percent increase in tree canopy was associated with a 15 percent decrease in violent crime. Mature trees also add an average of 10 percent to a property’s value, according to a Forest Service survey.

Boosting the Economy

Sustaining a healthy urban forest—tree planting and care, managing community gardens and parks—provides direct skilled career opportunities, and is a growing field, with members of organizations like the Sustainable Urban Forest Coalition implementing workforce development and educational programs to encourage careers in urban forestry. Green industries contribute 1.6 million jobs, $82 billion in payroll, and $196 billion in sales to the U.S. economy. Trees also provide other economic benefits—for instance, workers in office buildings with views of trees report increased productivity and overall job satisfaction, while shoppers in business districts with robust tree canopy will spend 9 percent to 12 percent more for products.

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Forest Defense Is Climate Defense

On October 10, 2018 Oregon Wild released a new report, “Forest Defense Is Climate Defense”, about the fascinating relationship between our forests and the climate. The report compiles the latest research on forest-carbon and explains how the single most impactful action Oregon can take to combat climate change is to change our forest policies.  To read the report

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Judge puts controversial Healdsburg logging plan on hold

Planned logging near a Healdsburg stream that provides some of the last refuge in the region for wild coho salmon has been put on hold after a court decision overturned a timber harvest plan for the 160-acre site.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau determined last month that the plan approved by Cal Fire last fall inadequately analyzed potential impacts for endangered and threatened fish species in Felta Creek and the greater Russian River watershed into which it drains.

Chouteau also agreed with neighbors’ claim that property owner Ken Bareilles failed to sufficiently address the effects of logging trucks on narrow roadways and five rural bridges they would travel to haul lumber from the remote parcel.

The resolution is unlikely to be the final chapter in the dispute, with both sides anticipating ongoing legal battles.

“The land isn’t safe until it has a conservation easement on it or a harvest plan geared for limited, smaller-scale logging, said Lucy Kotter, a one-time forester and a spokeswoman for Friends of Felta Creek, which was formed to block the plan.

Bareilles, a Eureka attorney, said Wednesday he still hopes he can start logging in the spring and intended to revise and resubmit his timber harvest plan for approval in the meantime.

He said concerns regarding traffic and bridges would be more easily addressed than those related to at-risk fish populations, but he said a sustained rise in lumber prices meant he wouldn’t lose any money while he worked the problems out.

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Senator McGuire’s NCRA Trail Bill Passes State Assembly

Bill is historic first step in creating the Great Redwood Trail master plan, addresses NCRA debt & liability concerns

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sacramento, CA – Senator Mike McGuire’s landmark legislation that seeks to turn the crumbling 300 mile North Coast railroad line into the Great Redwood Trail passed the State Assembly today on a vote of 62 to 3. The bill will be voted on by the State Senate tomorrow and will then head to Governor Brown for his signature. The Trail, which would extend from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay, runs through some of the most dramatic landscapes on earth.

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Working Forest Management Plan rules challenged

In 2013 the California Legislature passed SB 904 which created a new logging plan called a Working Forest Management Plan (WFMP).  The industry-dominated Board of Forestry was required to promulgate regulations implementing the WFMP.  True to form, the Board attempted to subvert the strong environmental requirements of the legislation.  Consequently in November Environmental Protection Information Center, Coast Action Group and challenged the regulations in court.  Forest Unlimited has financially supported this suit.

Oral arguments on the case were heard in Alamedia Superior Court on Friday April 20 and members of Forest Unlimited were there.  The Atroney General’s office and a CalFire attorney defended the regulations.  Well know attorney Sharon Duggan represented our side.  Ms. Duggan is the author of Guide to the California Forest Practice Act and Related Laws, a tome used by attorneys and ordinary citizens alike to understand forestry law.

Alan Lavine, Director of Coast Action Group, said “I think we did well in Court.  Sharon Duggan was well prepared and thorough in her presentation on the issues.   The Attorney General’s Deputy was not prepared as she admitted.  Judge was very thorough and had obviously done a lot of reading and studying and was well versed on the details.”

The Judge seemed a little upset with the AG.   For example, in response to one of his cogent questions she had no response.  The judge responded “Really -that is all you have?  Your kidding !, You must have more. That is it?  Huh.”  In contrast, Sharon Duggan did a masterful job.  After viewing Sharons’s performance, Forest Unlimited’s Executive Director Rick Coates commented “It was a pleasure to watch Sharon demonstrate her well-honed skills.  I am optimistic that the judge will rule in our favor.”

We should see the final ruling a week or so.  Hopefully, the Board of Foresty will learn that it can not just do whatever it’s wants and must actually follow the law.  Given their history, we know that is a lot to ask.