Critics Say Boston Tree Removal Plan Reflects Environmental Racism

A road project in Boston involves removing hundreds of mature trees. Residents say the plan is an environmental justice issue.

August 28, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


Vitaliy Krasovskiy / Shutterstock

A plan for a complete streets redesign of a roadway in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston includes wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and improved bus stops. But it also involves cutting down scores of trees that run along the boulevard and could eventually threaten up to 500 mature trees.

"The rows of oaks, lindens, maples, and other trees that line Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury have for decades provided vital shade, fresh air, and a leafy balance to a city corridor that can feel like a furnace in summer and a windswept tarmac in winter," reports David Abel.

More than 90 percent of Roxbury’s residents are people of color, and critics of the plan say that the trees provide essential shade and cover in an area experiencing extreme heat. They argue that removing the trees amounts to environmental racism.

The city says removal of the trees is necessary for the design of the road. A plan to replant in the area would replace the trees, but the saplings could take decades to reach maturity.

"Given the steadily rising temperatures from global warming — last month was tied for the second hottest July on record, following July 2019, the hottest month on record — critics of the project said the city should revise the construction plan to preserve far more trees," notes Abel.

Sunday, August 23, 2020 in The Boston Globe

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