By: Susan Sertain, member of the Tree Protection Task Force and Asheville resident for over 20 years
Please consider joining us on Wednesday, August 15th at 5pm for a webinar presentation and discussion about the upcoming Tree Canopy Preservation Amendment vote. Register here.
Did you know that the city of Asheville does not have any existing ordinances, policies, or programs in place to preserve its urban forest canopy?
The Urban Forestry Commission and the Division of Development Services have created a Tree Canopy Preservation Amendment that will be presented at the City Council meeting on August 25, 2020. This amendment to the city’s Unified Development Code would give developers the flexibility to build their projects, while at the same time helping to preserve existing tree canopy.
In 2019, an Urban Tree Canopy Study was commissioned by the City of Asheville and the Urban Forestry Commission. Over a 10 year period, Asheville experienced a 6.4 percent tree canopy loss, 891 acres of trees or 675 football fields! This study provided a look into our city’s canopy loss and provided some valuable information.
In the midst of a global climate crisis, and when our city leaders declared a Climate Emergency, many towns and cities across the nation and around the globe are creating ordinances and resolutions, and forming groups to focus on saving their existing trees, as well as planting many more. But we still have not .
Asheville City officials have given a verbal commitment to establishing a Zero Net Loss Canopy Policy but a written resolution will be presented with the Ordinance Tree Protection Amendment at City Council Meeting on August 25, 2020.
50,000 Trees in Asheville by 2040
Asheville will need to plant 50,000 trees by 2040, in order to restore our urban tree canopy to 50% coverage. GreenWorks is committed to this community goal through our Urban Forestry program and partnering with the city, county, and other community groups. To reach this goal, we will need to plant 2,500 trees per year - the question is, how fast will the rest of the trees be cut down?
With the City of Asheville continuing to grow, the pressure to build more densely, to cut down trees on public and private property, including gullies and slopes and removing trees just to clear the view, is becoming intense.
Use the slider to view development of the Upstream Way Luxury Vacation Rentals above Amboy Rd. Provided by Brooke Heaton, https://www.avltrees.org/before-after
The Environmental Value of Trees
What happens to the area where the lot has been cleared of almost all, if not all, of the trees in order to build? What happens when that mature, 150 year old tree is cut down to make room for a septic tank or a driveway? When even a small area of the urban forest is cut and all of the trees removed, these benefits are removed as well.
Environmental benefits including:
Social and public health benefits including the reduction of:
The Economic Value of Trees
We know that Asheville is loved by tourists from all over the world and many come back to live here. We can understand that hotels and housing is necessary. It is also necessary to seriously consider the economic benefits of keeping our urban forest: improving retail and tourist environments; increasing property values; decreasing storm water treatment costs; reducing energy consumption and electricity costs.
Asheville's urban forest, in 2018, collected 65,000 tons of carbon, a value of $3,000,000 per year. An urban forest can also reduce 18 million gallons of stormwater runoff per year. What happens if our urban forest continues to be cut down, when it is already doing so much good for Asheville’s energy transition goals and climate resilience?
Learn more about the benefits of trees.
Trees and Extreme Heat
At the 2019 Climate Change and Asheville’s Urban Forest symposium, the NASA DEVELOP Team reported on “Tree Cover and Asheville’s Urban Heat Islands,” a term used when describing a city being hotter than the countryside. Where buildings, concrete, and streets create an envelope of warm air making the city an island of heat and also increasing air pollution. This phenomenon is now made worse by the climate crisis.
The team reported that the impacts of extreme heat are disproportionately affecting marginalized communities with very little tree canopy cover. These areas showed elevated surface temperatures of 10 degrees higher than the tree filled communities in Asheville. Extreme heat can exacerbate existing health problems, causing heat-related illnesses and deaths among vulnerable populations.
What is the Urban Forestry Commission and the Tree Protection Task Force Doing?
These studies and their results were presented to the city along with a plea for an Urban Forester and a Master Plan. The pandemic has taken away any money that could have been used to allow that to happen while the cutting down of trees continues. Asheville prides itself on being a Tree City USA for 39 years and now acknowledges the urgent need to correct the history of social and environmental injustice.
With these commitments in mind, an Ordinance Amendment for Tree Preservation and a Resolution for a Zero Net Loss Canopy Policy are needed now more than ever.
This Ordinance will:
The goal of the Urban Forestry Commission and Division of Development Services is to promote an array of policies, management strategies, partnerships and programs to protect and enhance our Urban Forest, a legacy that we have the privilege to live in and care for.
Contact City Council Officials
Please contact our city officials to tell them your concerns and to urge them to say Yes to this Tree Canopy Preservation Amendment to the City Ordinance and to accept the written resolution of the Zero Net Canopy Loss Resolution.
Email all of City Council at [email protected]
Mayor Esther Manheimer – [email protected]
Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler – [email protected]
Brian Haynes – [email protected]
Julie Mayfield – [email protected]
Sheneika Smith – [email protected]
Keith Young – [email protected]