Ecology Advisory Board
- Steve Simms, Chairman
- Mike Karavas, Board of Trustees Liaison
- Greg Lowell, Recording Secretary
- Jerry Jacka
- Garima Fairfax
- Fay Marshall
- Kurt Carlson
- Bryan Baer
- Dave Batts, Advisory
Martin Parcel Vision and Recommendations Statement
Lyons Ecology Advisory Board, September 25, 2017
Martin Parcel Vision and Recommendations Statement >>
South St. Vrain Creek Vision and Recommendation Statement
Lyons Ecology Advisory Board, September 28, 2016
South St. Vrain Creek Vision and Recommendation Statement >>
The Value of Trees
by Sheereen Othman, Tree City USA programs and communications specialist
WE ARE SURROUNDED BY THEM.
They line our streets, shade our yards, and sit on mountainsides, yet we are so used to ignoring them that we do not pause to appreciate their value until they are gone. Trees are active members of our communities, yet they are given little credit for the economic, environmental, visual, and health benefits they contribute to municipalities.
An example of this can be seen in California, where the state has lost as many as 70 million trees to drought in the past five years. The effects of these disappearing trees are starting to impact the California economy and environment — never mind the sentimental value one attaches to watching a young seedling grow into a towering tree, or the numerous historic and champion trees that have disappeared, or the species exclusive to California forests. If these factors are not compelling enough to demonstrate the importance of trees in our lives, then let’s measure the actual value trees have in urban settings. Community forestry programs are growing across the nation as municipalities start to recognize the value of trees in community infrastructure. This year, there were more recognized Tree City USA communities than ever before. Tree City USA is a program of the Arbor Day Foundation that recognizes communities for viable urban forestry management by meeting four core standards.
An urban forestry program may not be a challenge for larger municipalities that have the financial and human resources to maintain their trees. But for some communities, particularly smaller ones, having a managing body or tree board responsible for the care of the community’s trees has made a world of difference. It holds municipalities accountable for caring for their community forest by reapplying for the designation every year. Communities that had not formerly had a tree management program in place have noticed positive changes.
So, what impact do trees have economically, environmentally, and esthetically on communities and homeowners?
Planting the right tree in the right place can save as much as 20 percent on energy costs. It is a victory for homeowners, businesses, and
communities. Denver saves an average of $6.7 million every year on energy costs alone because of its urban forest. Not only are trees more cost effective than other tools used for the same purpose, but they are more sustainable and address multiple concerns.
In fact, in many cases, an urban forest makes municipalities money. For example, installing a living snow fence comprising trees and shrubs versus a slatted snow fence will not only redirect snow and wind during storms, but also reduce stormwater management costs and air filtration costs by absorbing excessive rainfall and air pollutants. Denver saves more than $800,000 a year in stormwater costs and $129,000 in air pollution costs. Combined with the city’s energy savings, that is a total of $7.6 million a year that the city saves by simply having trees.
On average, a living snow fence lives 40 to 50 years, as opposed to a slatted snow fence that will need to be reinstalled every seven to 20 years. Additionally, living snow fences are more efficient at capturing snow than slatted fences, capturing up to 12 times more. In the long run, living snow fences are more efficient and cost effective, whether they are along streets and highways or on the edge of properties. Living snow fences are also environmentally friendly, attracting wildlife to habitat that otherwise would not be present.
A lot of animals and wildlife depend on trees for food, cover, and hunting prey. When trees start disappearing, animals disappear with them. This trend is significant in regions where endangered animal species live. We may be able to plant more trees, but we cannot bring wildlife back from extinction. People also depend on trees for food, and in some cases for their livelihood. Trees are an important part of a healthy ecosystem that we all depend on, whether we know it or not.
More than 180 million Americans depend on forests for their drinking water. Many communities, such as Denver, rely on forested watersheds for their water supply. Forests absorb rainfall and use that water to refill underground aquifers, cleansing and cooling water along the way. So when watersheds are destroyed, it tampers with water supply. The quality of water depends on the health of the forest it comes from.
But trees are not just protecting the environment in forests, they also are protecting the Earth’s environment. One acre of forest removes six tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, purifying the air we breathe and then releasing it back as oxygen — one of the most essential requirements of life. The leaves evaporate water, and the air vapor then removes heat energy from the air. This process is critical to slowing down the effects of climate change — which also has had a negative effect on forests, as is the case in California, where millions of trees are dying.
Trees are some of the least expensive plants to add to a landscape and immediately earn value back. Landscaping with trees can increase property value by as much as 20 percent.
Trees are an important consideration when choosing a neighborhood. In fact, according to a NeighborWoods Month survey conducted by Wakefield Research, 88 percent of Americans would pay more for a house with trees in the yard, and 79 percent of Americans feel trees define their neighborhood’s character. These findings are insightful to how much people value the visual appeal of trees.
Additional research indicates that neighbors are more active and more social with one another in neighborhoods with canopy coverage compared to those that are barren. Trees create a sense of pride and unity that put people at ease and encourage them to spend more time outdoors; as a result, they are more likely to interact with each other. The positive effects of trees are so great that neighborhoods and homes that are barren are shown to have more incidents of violence and crime than those filled with trees. Numerous studies have found that when trees are planted in neighborhoods, the rates of crime go down.
The impact of trees’ visual appeal is carried over to a health setting as well. Patients who have a view of trees outside their windows heal faster and with fewer complications than those without trees. Children with ADHD also show fewer symptoms when they are exposed to trees. Trees and nature aid concentration by reducing mental fatigue. It is no wonder that trees are often present in healing gardens and other places of tranquility.
Trees contribute so much to communities and neighborhoods. A healthy urban forest improves the health and well-being of its residents and beautifies the town. When municipalities invest in the care of their trees, the whole community benefits. When homeowners plant trees in their yards, they increase the value of their homes, save money on energy costs, and beautify the neighborhood. Trees are an economical and sustainable solution to addressing community needs, so let’s continue to plant them.