Trees take center stage at recent workshop

To the editor:

Recently the Warren Tree Commission held a workshop on the Warren Urban Forest Resource Study and new tree ordinance.

In attendance were approximately 50 to 60 people, including four town councilors (I was out of town), town manager, and the tree warden. The guest speaker, John Campanini, the technical adviser of the Rhode Islnad Tree Council, thoroughly covered the the Urban Forest Resource study that was conducted in the Town of Warren by a partnership between the Tree Council, RIDEM, and the US Department of Agriculture/Forest Service, with funding provided by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
Mr. Campanini discussed the following details of the study:

* Trees slow and reduce water run-off
* They improve air quality
* They reduce energy consumption
* They increase real estate values
* They increase community attractiveness for tourism and business
* They provide a wildlife habitat and corridor.

John presented the economic benefit attached to some of these and showed how the monetary net worth of all economic benefits derived from trees in Warren is $1.64 million. He showed that leaf area is critical and that larger trees with more leaf area provide much more benefits.

Based on the study he recommended planting trees, especially trees that are large-statured and not susceptible to the two more dangerous exotic insects that are invading urban forests in the Northeast, the Asian longhorn Beetle and the Emerald Ash Borer. Some examples are the Red White and Pin Oak, Tulip Tree, Silver Maple Honey Locust and American Sycamore. He stated that not enough new trees are being planted to sustain the flow of benefits over the long haul.

He also mentioned fostering public advocacy and raising public awareness of urban forestry in Warren through education and participatory events.

The talk turned its focus on the newly proposed tree ordinance. Mr. Campanini spoke on how he was involved with the tree ordinance in Providence and most recently in Fall River and Warren. Some of the questions from the audience focused on the significant tree section of the ordinance which require an owner of a significant tree (28 inches around at 4.5 feet from the ground) to apply for a permit to be able to cut it down. One audience member said that this permit process is a good idea because it provides a “moratorium” during which the tree commission/tree warden can talk with the tree owner to discuss the benefits of saving the tree and investigate whether the tree really needs to come down. It is possible that the homeowner received aggressive advice from a tree company looking for work. It is also possible that the tree should come down.

There was discussion that fines, punishments, etc. for violators is a last resort that nobody wants to see. Mr. Campanini ended the evening by stating that while much work regarding trees needs to be done in Warren, a good deal of progress has been made and that he and the RI Tree Council will continue to be available.

Chuck Staton
Mr. Staton is the chairman of the Warren Tree Commission.

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