We have been concerned about the loss of urban canopy for a few years. Recent studies and other developments show that the situation is getting worse. It seems that while people talk a lot about planting trees, few discuss the preservation and maintenance of our mature trees.
We are losing mature trees throughout Chicagoland at a rapid pace. A recent study shows that from 2005-2009, 17 out of 20 major cities experienced a loss of tree canopy. Here is a link to this study. This is especially ironic in Chicago since in 2009 the Chicago Tree Initiative was introduced as part of the City’s Climate Action Plan.
The goal of the CTI was to increase Chicago tree canopy cover from 17% to 20% by 2020. This included a combination of planting trees and pruning trees. This plan was flawed in that it did not include any funding or provisions for plant health care. It’s great to plant trees, but planting 20, 2 inch trees does not replace the benefits from one, 40 inch tree as far as carbon sequestering and other benefits we get from trees.
The CTI had many partners, including the Morton Arboretum and the U.S. Forest Service. In a recent(2012) e-mail from Joseph McCarthy, Senior City Forester for the City of Chicago, in answer to an inquiry as to the status of the CTI, he informed us that it had been turned over to the Department of Environment but that the DOE had been eliminated. This had happened due to the combination of the new administration and the downturn in the economy and subsequent funding cuts. 2012 is the second year the city will not have funds to plant trees, according to Joe. So much for the “green” city of Chicago.
Unfortunately, this is a scenario that is being repeated throughout many of the suburbs in Chicagoland. We will be devoting pages of this website to as many of the good stories about efforts to preserve mature trees as possible. There will also be an attempt to chronicle the cases where making a quick buck triumphed over saving irreplaceable trees.