ded reckoning

The Militaristic, Environmental, Telecom blog that doesn't know where it's going

03 August 2005

Urban Forests are good, no kidding

In the annals of enviro journalism, there does seem to be stories other than the sky is falling, we're all being poisoned type. USATODAY had two stories on urban forests and the benefits they provide. Not really news, but something that people should be reminded of on a regular basis.

The first describes the benefits of having significant tree cover. The main benefits are the cooling effects (very familiar to someone like myself who has lived in barren parts of Orlando, Florida and both Austin and Dallas, Texas-shade on a 105 degree day in Dallas is a life saver), air pollution abatement, and improved storm water control.

The second article talks about Roanoke, Virginia's efforts to increase it's forest cover and gives an example of how a cleared area created flooding problems by increasing runoff. I've seen this and read about it for large parking areas (in Dallas a mall parking lot was causing so much runoff to an adjacent stream it was cutting away at streamside home foundations) but thought as long as there wasn't impermeable cover a lot of rain would soak in, even on a grassy hillside. Apparently not. It makes sense since here in northern California, a redwood in your backyard can soak up 100 gallons a day or more of ground water. Good for keeping flooding to a minimum.

Shade has always been something I desired while living in the south, so the fact that Charlotte, North Carolina has lost 35% of its forest cover is pretty sad and stupid. In Orlando all you have to do is drive from a new neighborhood to an old one like Winter Park to see a 10-15 degree change in temperatures. If you let developers get away with clear cutting rather than selective clearing for building pads, you'll get the nice treeless neighborhoods they have there and in many other places in the south. Stupid development like that just gives you ugly houses with plenty of unneeded electric bills. And it can be done differently; my brother builds houses in Hernando County near Tampa and they don't let the developers clear cut, they cut to build the roads and pads but leave the rest of the forest cover intact-he has plenty of work and it probably is cheaper for the developer anyway.

Of course even in the "enlightened" city of San Francisco the street trees seem to be paid with donations, not out of the city budget. I guess the money they are saving from not regulating the pot clubs goes somewhere else.