Advocates for urban greening are asking the city to boost its tree planting efforts and protect existing trees, which are a key tool for fighting the effects of climate change and worsening heat waves.
In a commentary piece in the Chicago Tribune, Daniella Pereira, vice president of community conservation at Openlands, and Naomi Davis, founder and CEO of Blacks in Green, call on Chicago’s leaders to make a stronger commitment to protecting the city’s tree canopy through comprehensive efforts to preserve existing trees when possible and ensure equitable distribution of resources across the city’s neighborhoods.
It is a disgrace that while $46 million worth of street trees will be planted, our existing healthy and large canopy trees continue to be removed through aldermanic privilege and a Department of Water Management that follows practices contrary to the mayor’s edict. Chicago already has a low tree canopy, and with the removal to planting ratio being 2 to 1, 75,000 trees will not even replace the canopy of what continues to be removed.
Even with tree planting efforts, the authors point out that “Without saving the existing canopy, it will be decades for these young trees to offer the same environmental and health benefits to communities that need them the most now.” The authors claim that “Chicago’s Department of Water Management continues to remove all trees in their way. These trees, the one appreciating asset we have in the city, are then not replaced. In all other cases, when trees are requested to be removed, a forester inspects the tree and, if healthy, denies the request.”
According to Pereira and Davis, “The city needs to have a driver of a strategic urban forestry management plan and a tree canopy goal strategy as a minimum, for each community area.” Furthermore, “That strong vision should be followed by strong tree protection ordinances, policies, interdepartmental communication and public engagement.”
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