Trees are big business. And I'm not talking about the local tree cutting services that cut them down in yards. I'm talking about timber REITs like Plum Creek and Potlatch and the privately owned tree farms where people like Chuck Leavell and moi, yes that's me, grow trees specifically for the purpose of cutting them down and selling. I'm a tree farmer and proud of it.
Getting a return on investment while essentially managing forests in an environmentally friendly way is what draws us to this type of investment. Farmed trees are one of our greatest sustainable resources for energy and forest products because they can be replanted again and again.
Trees that are in suburbs and cities – urban trees – are different. Urban trees are work-horses. They fill in our landscapes – yards, schools, in parks, along interstates and elsewhere – and in all these places they DO things for us.
While trees provide us with oxygen, they actually contribute more water vapor than oxygen to the atmosphere. Why does this matter? Because it cools things down. The tree stays cool and everything around the tree stays cool, including homes, parking lots and shopping centers. Even City Halls stay cooler with trees.
To help with all this transpiration, trees take up enormous amounts of water and therefore do stormwater management. How many of you have known an individual who took out a large tree near their house and soon after began having a leaky basement? The tree was not there to take up the water. How many retention ponds does your city have? One reason these retention ponds are so absolutely necessary is because trees have been clear cut for development and are not there to take up water.
Actively growing trees sequester carbon. That is a fact and a good one with the necessity of burning fossil fuels in this day and age.
Finally, trees are good for shopping. Research has shown that consumers will spend 11% more for goods at shopping districts with trees than in shopping districts without them.
You can read all about these things by going to this USDA Forest Service website page and opening up the pdf "Talking Trees: An Urban Forestry Toolkit for Local Governments."
Oh yes, and trees, particularly big, old ones, are rather beautiful.
The Alpharetta City Council did not take any of the above into consideration when developing their revised City Center plan, as all my other blogs have spelled out very specifically. Why they have been so shortsighted about trees I do not know.
And I'm afraid that Alpharetta's Mayor – David Belle Isle – seems to be leading the charge with this disregard for the benefits of trees since he apparently took out every single tree in his front yard. Did he obtain permits? I do not know, since he did not answer my question in the previous blog.
Development happens and will happen, but it is irresponsible, disrespectful and wasteful to leave trees out of the planning. Trees that are already in place give you a terrific head start on gaining all of the benefits I have spelled out above.