Letter: Trees for the people and the planet

Posted 3/28/24

When we take care of trees, trees take care of people and entire ecosystems.

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Letter: Trees for the people and the planet


To the editor:

Trees are our neighbors, our relatives, our elder caretakers, and rooted in our communities. When we take care of trees, trees take care of people and entire ecosystems. Trees are beautiful and provide habitat to living things. They help reduce energy use and lower utility bills. They elevate property values and help create aesthetically appealing towns.

They capture carbon, absorb air pollution, enhance cooling, and release oxygen for our survival. Trees filter polluted water, aid in storm water runoff, help mitigate flooding, and protect against wind and driving rain. Much of a tree’s value is hidden from view.

So with all the benefits trees provide, why are so many healthy trees (not ones in danger of falling) being cut down from our communities?

• Human ignorance on the vital role trees play to the health and well-being of all living things.

• Removal of trees for self-serving purposes (messy leaves, acorns, clogged gutters, felled branches, growing more grass, squirrels, bird poop, improve view, etc.)

• Property developers and land owners clear cutting lots. Take a look at any new development. What you won’t see are mature trees. Maybe a couple of smallish trees planted later, but gone are any mature trees living on property prior to development. Granted, some trees must be sacrificed to allow safe construction of the structure.

• Trees are a commodity to be cut and sold. Companies know this and are in business to make money. It takes decades for trees to reach maturity. It only takes a few minutes to cut them down.

• Lack of knowledge on how to properly prune a tree. Cutting back and pruning takes care and experience and should be done much more often. Even when a tree shows signs of decay, it can be pruned back in a healthy way and not just cut down.

Actions to consider:
• Avoid needless tree removals and plant many more larger native trees. Visit (https://web.uri.edu/rinativeplants/) for information on RI native trees. Central Nurseries of RI has a vast selection of large native trees and can help.

• Tree removals increase the potential for invasive species to grow. A walk down the East Bay bike path reveals the massive destruction invasives are having on trees. These vines strangle and disfigure trees, impede growth and lead to premature death. Cutting these vines to the ground can help save trees or at least prolong life. Check with a licensed arborist or local tree warden.

• Prune trees instead of cutting them down. Contact a licensed arborist or tree warden.

• Consider joining or forming tree stewardship groups. Tree planting and maintenance programs are mostly organized and conducted by volunteer citizens. Assisting local town conservation groups can be a great way grow tree canopies throughout the East Bay.

• Stop clear cutting lots when building new housing or commercial developments. Town officials and abutting neighbors should be made aware of plans that include clear cutting. Developers, property/building owners, town building/conservation officials and abutting neighbors should walk properties together and identify trees that should not be cut down before any cutting starts.

Trees do necessary things to keep our towns and planet habitable. It’s in all of our best interests to let trees continue doing their work.

John Campanini (longtime director of the RI Tree Council) summed things up very well, saying, “We need a rational approach to protection that respects our trees”.

It comes down to respect for trees and for the tremendous benefits they serve when they remain alive, thriving and upright in the ground. Let’s take more individual and collective action to protect and plant more trees.

George Voutes

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