Tucson losing trees faster than they are being replaced

Published: Jun. 17, 2019 at 7:08 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Tucson is losing trees faster than they are being replaced.

There are as many as 3.5 million trees here so losing a few may not seem all that bad until one realizes the starting point.

Tucson, according to standards, should have twice that.

Trees have economic and health benefits so there’s concern when trees disappear.

That’s why the canopy replacement is a big part of Tucson’s new Green Infrastructure Plan.

“Trees are the original green infrastructure,” said Tanya Quist, an environmental scientist and Director of the University of Arizona’s Arboretum.

She will give the city a nationally researched report on the economic value of bringing the urban canopy up to par.

“The goal is to double our canopy cover,” she said. “It would require planting about 350,000 trees a year for the next ten years.”

But she adds, just planting the trees would not solve the problem.

“It’s a matter planting it and they assuring that it’s maintained in such a way that it grows to maturity,” she said.

Right now, the average urban tree may last only 13 years, not long enough to provide benefits.

Much of that due to poor trimming and watering practices.

That’s why Quist embraces a city plan to bring all departments which have a responsibility for trees, under one roof.

“That would provide consistency," she said.

Trees have an economic value too.

Each tree in the urban environment brings with it about $60 in value.

That’s energy savings, health benefits, water savings and increased business activity.

She says research show a well landscaped, tree lined business district can increase business from 9% to 12%.

Tucson’s tree canopy is about half what it needs to be to provide adequate benefits.

Some parts of Tucson have a 3% canopy, five or six times lower than they should to meet standards.

According to the Director of Trees for Tucson, Katie Gannon, a new program to plant 1,000 trees starting on Arbor Day will be directed to those areas.

The areas that are the most stressed have fewest trees.

But it goes deeper.

“To support trees, we not only have to be planting them,” she said. “But we really need to protect the ones we already have.”

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