Every Tree in the City, Mapped

How many trees are in your city?

It might seem like a straightforward question, but finding the answer can be a monumental task. New York City’s 2015-2016 tree census, for example, took nearly two years (12,000 hours total) and more than 2,200 volunteers. Seattle’s tree inventory won’t be complete until at least 2024. Such efforts aren’t done in vain; in the short term, they allow cities to better maintain their urban trees. And over the long run, they lay out the foundation for various initiatives that address everything from climate change to public health.

So to make the task of counting trees easier, a team of cartographers and applied scientists at geospatial analytics startup Descartes Labs is turning to artificial intelligence. In their quest to leave no tree uncounted, they built a machine learning model that can map an entire city’s canopy, even subtracting other greenery that might look like trees in satellite imagery. The resulting maps reveal a green thumbprint of each city—like this one of Baltimore and its surrounding leafy suburbs.

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Fighting wildfire from the inside out

Private woodlands lost to California wildfire — and may not be replaced

Author Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

More than 228,000 acres of private timber have been cut down since 2009, by owners using emergency timber harvest permits issued by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. The permits exempt landowners who have been subjected to catastrophic events, like fires, from the California Environmental Quality Act’s rigorous timber harvest review process that commercial loggers face.

They allow property owners to remove trees deemed by licensed foresters to be dead or dying, and to sell the timber.

That is what happened with a 160-acre Girl Scout Camp called the Cove, which burned to the ground when the Nuns Fire raged over Mount Veeder in Napa County in fall 2017, destroying the forest and 110 homes.

The Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District, which owns the property, took out an emergency harvest permit to clear the damaged trees and sold the timber for several hundred thousand dollars, said Chris Cahill, the district’s deputy general manager.

Cahill plans to reforest the hilltop with redwood saplings. That puts him in company with about a third of smaller landowners who do raise the money necessary to replant, meaning a great many of the tens of thousands of acres of trees that are cut down every year after fires are never replaced, Stewart said.

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Battle Creek Alliance has won a big victory

Battle Creek Alliance has won a big victory in fighting a
Timber Harvest Plan that would have clear cut over 1000
acres of forested land in the Battle Creek watershed.  Marily
Woodhouse, Director of Battle Creek Alliance filed an
extensive 32 page comment against a Sierra Pacific
Industries THP that she found to be factually and
scientifically flawed.  She stated she had found much of the
Plan had used information from adjacent areas that did not
apply to the proposed area to be cut among other issues.

Following her appeal or comments of the THP and several
phone calls to CalFire Board of Forestry personnel indicating
she was willing to follow through with a lawsuit, Sierra
Pacific quietly withdrew their application.  This is something
that rarely happens according to Rob DiPerna of Arcata based Environmental Protection Information Center or EPIC as it is commonly known.

Marily said it took many hours of work, however her
previous experience in reviewing THP’s allowed her to see
the “cut and paste” work done by Sierra Pacific in this plan
and because she knew the area where the cut would take place. Usually these issues are not noticed by CalFire/Boardof Forestry personnel either out of   alack of time to properlyreview them, lack of concern and/or dependence on Sierra Pacific employees to properly submit factual data.

The Battle Creek watershed is a very important habitat for
migrating salmon and steelhead trout because it has year

cold water from deep volcanic rock in the watershed
keeping the water cool. This makes an ideal habitat for the
fish.  Keeping the creek free of sediments and herbicides is
also important in restoring the fishery in Battle Creek.

Congratulation to Marily Woodhouse and Battle Creek
Alliance in defeating multi-billion dollar Sierra Pacific
Industries in this battle.  It is very rare that a THP will be
withdrawn following a complaint from the public.  While the

land could be clearcut in the future, now Sierra Pacific
knows it will have to submit more relevant and scientific
information in future THP.  The Battle Creek Alliance is a
supporting organization of Shasta Environmental Alliance.
If you would like to see her 32- page letter of comments, go

A Research Toolkit for Building the Ultimate Urban Forest

Whether you live in a town with a single main street or a megacity, the trees and green space in your larger neighborhood are key to the economic, human and environmental health of you and your community. The presence, or absence, of a thriving urban forest has a direct impact on our individual and collective quality of life in more ways that most people ever realize.

In order to ensure our urban trees are doing the most for us, we need to know what we’ve got. Next comes an evaluation of what is needed and how to get there. And underscoring all of that is why this investment is so important and how it pays us back.

Why It’s So Important to Invest in our Urban Forest

A community’s green infrastructure — trees, vegetation and water — is just as important as its roads, pipes and power lines. Decades of research on small towns to dense megacities, show that our urban forests deliver measurable economic benefits, reduce strain on built infrastructure and improve people’s health and quality of life on many different fronts.

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