Let’s face it: no one likes to think about natural disasters, with their potential for devastation of our homes, neighborhoods, communities, and livelihoods. We’ve shared on this blog before about some of the communities hit hardest in recent years by natural disasters, and told the inspiring stories of citizens returning hope and healing to the places they call home.
Even still, there’s simply no way around it. Natural disasters are a fact of life.
When a natural disaster strikes a community, trees are invariably involved and many
times on the losing end of the event. Using the framework of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program, sound urban forestry management has proven essential to loss prevention and recovery of our treasured trees.
The scientific consensus is that climate change is occurring and that, in many cases, it is making natural disasters worse. Any planning to mitigate disasters should also include planning to reduce human-caused acceleration or magnification of climate change.
According to a survey by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nearly three-quarters of U.S. cities are now seeing environmental shifts that can be linked to climate change. More than 1,000 city leaders have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to strive to meet or exceed Kyoto Protocol targets in their communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A healthy canopy of trees plays an important role in this effort. Trees need to be considered a vital part of every city’s infrastructure – right alongside the bridges, roads, sewers, electrical, and telecommunication grids – and appreciated for the natural workhorses that they are. For proof, one need not look further than the great role trees play in taming stormwater runoff during and immediately following natural disasters.
Sound urban forestry management through the framework of the Tree City USA program has been proven to be essential time and again. In fact, green infrastructure is the only part of a city’s infrastructure that actually increases in value and service over time.
Whether for preventative measures or recovery efforts, here are four key ideas your community needs for the best possible outcomes:
- Communities with an established budget for tree care are in a better position than those that must compete for grants or appropriations. If your community is a recognized TreeCity USA, your community allocates the standard minimum of $2 per capita in a community forestry program.
- Be prepared with an emergency management plan – and even better if it specifically includes a storm contingency plan. Unfortunately, it’s likely not a matter of IF you’ll need it, but rather WHEN you will.
- Take time to “get it right” after a disaster. As in most things, it’s far better to move slowly with deliberate, well thought-out decisions and wise judgment than to rush into hasty action. This is particularly important when considering where reconstruction efforts will take place across a community and where trees should be replaced.
- Lean on the expertise of your local tree board and their extensive list of contacts. These people will be an invaluable resource when it comes time to actually do the work of replanting trees.
For more information on best practices and ways your community can recover from natural disasters, see Tree City USA Bulletin #68.