Trees are vitally important to cities, villages and towns. Like electricity and water, an urban tree canopy is part of a community’s infrastructure, providing valuable environmental, economic and social benefits. Well-managed urban forests pay back nearly three times the cost to plant and maintain them.
According to a 2012 study, Wisconsin has an estimated 42.8 million urban trees, with a replacement value of $19.3 billion. Trees in and immediately surrounding Wisconsin’s urban areas provide annual energy savings to residents of $78.9 million, remove $47.6 million worth of air pollution and store $507 million worth of carbon. Urban trees provide many benefits to homeowners and communities. Our community trees love us; it is time we show them some love back. There are several ways to get involved, spread the love and help urban forestry in your community.
The Tree City USA® program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. It provides direction, technical assistance, public attention and national recognition for urban and community forestry programs in thousands of towns and cities. Find out if your community is a Tree City. If it is, consider joining the tree board. If your community is not a Tree City consider applying to become one.
Arbor Day is another great way to spread the word about the benefits of urban trees. Arbor Day is a worldwide tree-planting holiday that has been celebrated in Wisconsin since 1883. Though the holiday is observed on different dates according to planting conditions and local custom, Wisconsin’s official Arbor Day is the last Friday in April. Celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree and committing to care for it, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
Along the same lines of tree care, show your love for urban trees by making sure the trees on your property are properly pruned and taken care of. If you are unsure whether your tree needs pruning, contact a local arborist. It is important for tree branches to stay clear of power lines and other potentially dangerous situations.
Another way to show your support for community trees is to encourage and support urban wood reuse projects. Many urban trees that are taken down due to insect, disease or circumstance, NOT because of their timber value can be recycled into lumber, furniture, flooring, art, architecture and other goods. Organizations such as Wisconsin Urban Wood and Wudeward Urban Forest Products focus on ensuring urban wood does not get turned into fire wood, but transformed into something useful. By supporting these organizations through purchases of products or informing them of local trees being removed, you can show your love for community trees even after they are gone.
Urban forests and community trees continue to be planted to provide benefits to the community they reside in: lower energy cost, increased property value, removal of pollution and many others. It is important that we give back to our urban trees just as much as they have given to us. Valentine’s Day is a holiday to show how much you love and care for someone, this year consider also showing how much you love and care for something, your urban forest.
For more information contact Ellen Clark (EllenA.Clark@Wisconsin.gov), Urban Forestry Communication Specialist, at 608-267-2774.