Urban trees stand guard against storm damage, raise property values, boost wellbeing and even help other city systems like roads work more efficiently, according to urban forestry experts.
So, should city officials treat them as core infrastructure — as a utility themselves?
In the face of a warming planet and breakneck urbanization, a growing number of U.S. policymakers and citizens are asking that question.
“We’re having a moment in our field right now, a sudden awakening,” said Ian Leahy, vice president of urban forestry at American Forests, a non-profit.
Last week Republican lawmakers proposed legislation setting a goal for the United States to plant a trillion trees by 2050 to fight global warming.
U.S. cities alone could plant about 400,000 of those trees, noted the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based think tank. And the benefits would go well beyond carbon storage.
According to the National Tree Benefit Calculator, which uses data from the U.S. Forest Service, a single 36-inch diameter (91-cm) willow oak in a residential area in the D.C. suburbs can provide nearly $330 in benefits per year.
Those include slowing stormwater runoff, cooling air temperatures, and even boosting student achievement and public health, Leahy explained.
Citing similar benefits, the United Nations food agency in September announced plans to plant up to 500,000 hectares of urban forests in 90 cities across Africa and Asia by 2030.
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