Urban Green and Cold Cash

By Rodbell, Phillip | American Forests, March-April 1991 | Go to article overview

Urban Green and Cold Cash


Rodbell, Phillip, American Forests


Sooner or later all whom tree huggers are challenged to place a dollar value on trees. In selfdefense, they may stutter back something like, "Trees are more than just amenities. They increase the value of real estate, cleanse they city's air and water, and reduce the energy used for heating and cooling."

Urban foresters have recently developed elaborate formulae for calculating property values, environmental values, energysaving values, and even psychological values of tress (see AMERICAN FORESTS, July/August 1988, September/October 1989). We have a good fix on the hard, tangible worth of trees-numbers, I should add, that help city foresters justify their budgets to the cold eyes of financial officers.

But in the rush of facts about the solid and impressive value of the city tree, we have begun to neglect its intangible, even spirtual, value-something we can all relate to on a personal level.

Over the past decade, researchers at the North Central Forest Experiment Station (U.S. Forest Service, 5801 N. Pulask Rd., Chicago, IL 60646) have diligently studied the ties between people and trees. In a recent paper titled "The Significance of Urban Trees and Forests-Toward a Deeper Understanding of Values," authors John Dwyer, Herbert Schroeder, and Paul Gobster outline the ddp psychological bonds between people and urban trees.

The authors point out that wilderness advocates have used psychological arguments for years to protect America's natural areas-hand have found strong support for preervation among urbanites. Similarly, urban forest advocates can use the city dweller's attraction to the natural environment to garner support for trees in cities. Urban natural areas, although not a spristine as remote wilderness, provide a daily contrast to and relief from brick, asphalt, and concrete-and urban nature is far more accessible. Just as efforts to preserve wilderness are often prompted by preceived threats to oldgrowth forest, efforts to preserve green space in cities is often inspired by the feeling that trees are threatened or vulnerable in the urban environment. Older trees that have survived represent an enduring element of nature deserving protection.

Light fillering through leaves and branches reveals ever-changing patterns of colore and texture, alternately revealing and hiding the surrounding urban environment. …

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