Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Urban Trees Are Not Just for the Birds, but Can Save Money, Air

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Urban Trees Are Not Just for the Birds, but Can Save Money, Air

Article excerpt

MONEY might not grow on trees, but wherever they take root in cities across the United States, trees scatter an ample windfall in greenbacks for city dwellers.

"Urban forests" play a small but striking part in saving energy and reducing the cost of cleaning up pollution, according to a study by the US Forest Service.

A tree planted and tended by the city of Chicago will not only pay its own way over its lifetime, but will also yield several hundred dollars in savings for the city, says the three-year study, which focused on Chicago.

The findings are welcome news for mayors who must meet stringent federal standards for clean air and reduce city spending because of tight budgets.

The study goes against the grain of a view prevailing in city halls across America that trees, while loved by poets and naturalists, are mostly for the birds.

Most urban officials recognize only the conspicuous tree-related costs like planting, pruning, watering, raking, felling, and legal liability, says Cheryl Kollin, director of urban forestry at American Forests, a nonprofit organization in Washington.

"In general, policymakers, city managers, and budget directors have underestimated the economic and environmental benefits of trees," Ms. Kollin says.

During the recent recession, as city budgets grew tighter, many cities cut spending for trees before other departments' budgets, according to Kollin.

Yet in their solid and reticent way, trees offer city dwellers significant savings in "the long green." If the metropolitan Chicago area were to plant 95,000 trees and tend them for 30 years, it would enjoy net savings of $38 million, largely because of reductions in energy use, pollution, and the runoff of storm water. Looked at another way, each tree would offer a net value of benefits worth $402, according to the forest service report.

In 1991, trees across the Chicago metropolitan area performed $9.2 million worth of pollution removal, scrubbing the air of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and particulate matter, according to the study.

Moreover, Chicago-area trees store 6.1 million tons of carbon dioxide, one of the leading "greenhouse gases" believed to trap atmospheric heat. …

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