Trees are a legacy we can all leave behind  ©Kathi Quinn

Recently – a huge Linden tree out our back patio was cut down. Likely there was a good reason, yet it made me sad.  More than being just a habitat to squirrels and humming birds, as well as a source of entertainment, that tree provided us shade and privacy. Hopefully, the wildlife survived and moved on.

It made me think about the value of what was lost. A recent study published in, Nature, pointed out that scientists have discovered there are more trees on Earth than previously thought. The latest figure is just over 3 trillion trees. While this sounds like good news, the study went on to point out that 15 billion trees are lost annually through natural death, catastrophes like Emerald Ash borer, diseases and destruction of the rain forest.

Each year 5 billion trees are planted – resulting in deficit of 10 billion trees each year!  At this rate, in 300 years, there will be no more trees on Earth! Methuselah, a bristlecone pine tree from California’s White Mountains, is just over 5,000 years old—and the oldest non-clonal tree in the world. For its protection, the exact location of the gnarled, twisted tree is a Forest Service secret. In Sierra Nevada, CA, there are many more including a 3,266 year old Giant Sequoia. There are other ancient trees around the world in this historic category.

But how long will they provide us with oxygen? In Italy – an olive grove, whose oldest trees are recognized as part of the world heritage by UNESCO [United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization], are threatened by a pipeline project scheduled for May 2017 if nothing is done to stop it.

Protecting trees is a global challenge and responsibility. Trees are critical to the survival of humanity. What can we do? We need to plant better, maintain better, and protect our mature and ancient trees.

The Morton Arboretum offers ordinance templates through the Chicago Region Tree Initiative.  Prospect Heights does not have a tree removal ordinance. Without these constraints, trees are treated like things, and not the irreplaceable life forms they are.

Our city is has a unique charm based on its tree canopy.  We need to protect the trees in our town and beyond so anyone with a chainsaw cannot remove trees that are healthy or mature. Trees are alive! While this may seem obvious, they are often treated like inanimate objects. Because they are alive they need care and nurturing throughout their lives, just like people.

Maintaining mature trees is smart. We cannot replace time! The benefits of taking care of trees that are 10 to 20 years old, far out way the cost of their maintenance. Constantly replacing trees because they were not maintained means never having the benefits that mature trees bring. Trees are the only part of the infrastructure that do a better job as they get older and larger.

 We need to plant better, too. Check out both The International Society of Arboriculture and Morton Arboretum standards. For example: leaving on the burlap, twine and steel cage shortens the life of the tree. Trees planted too deep don’t live as long as they should.

We need to plant more trees! Not just in our little slice of paradise –Rob Roy – but all over. Support organizations that promote tree planting, tree protection and health. Here are two local groups that can use your support of their missions: provides free educational materials and programs for children in our area – donors and sponsors can check out  and the Jewish National Fund has a program planting trees in Israel .

It is likely none of us will be here in 300 years – but with a commitment to taking care of our trees – they may be!




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