Living With Animals: Trees Please

By Hope Bidegainberry on February 22, 2019
A directly above view of a redwood forest

I know many will disagree but a new report in “Urban Forestry and Urban Greening” is among the most frightening things I’ve come upon. The article documents research conducted by the United States Forest Service (USFS), reviewing and comparing aerial photographs of tree cover in our nation’s cities and towns from 2009 through 2014. For each of those years, on average we lost 36 million trees in our country’s metropolitan communities. With only three exceptions (Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico) this dramatic decline is observed in every state. The problem with numbers like 36,000,000 is that they are too big to hold onto, at least for me. So let’s put it this way: losing 36,000,000 trees each year is equivalent to losing every tree in Golden Gate Park 4 times a day, or every 6 hours every day of the year, year after year.

As the researchers explain, “Urban forests are a vital part of the nation’s landscape.” We all know this by now, don’t we? Less trees means worsening air quality. Less trees means less habitat for wildlife already struggling as human population expands ever more into open space. Less trees means a lessening of all that makes life good for everything on the planet. But neither poetic feelings nor a pro-conservation ethos will likely cut it, so it’s probably a good idea – considering how decision makers make decisions – that USFS scientists are able to assign a dollar amount to this crisis. The report notes that that tree cover in U.S. cities and towns is responsible for $18 billion in annual benefits to society.

But just between you and me, let’s face it: this is far more than an economic issue. A few weeks ago I quoted some of the best writing I know about animals and the environment, including this from Chief Seattle of the Suquamish People, “What is man without the beasts? If the beasts were gone, man would die from a loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.” Yes, all things are connected. 

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