Relationship between trees and neighborhood affluence offers important lessons for local leaders

A U.S. Forest Service survey of the San Francisco Bay Area found that neighborhoods with robust communities trees are usually more economically prosperous than areas lacking in trees.

Trees are scant in lower-income West Oakland and plentiful in affluent Piedmont just four miles away, according to the San Jose Mercury News. A similar contrast is evident when comparing Palo Alto to East Palo Alto in the South Bay.

“If you have a tree-lined street, people are more likely to shop there,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “If you have a tree-lined street, property values go up. … The more trees we have, the cleaner the air.”

Tidwell, a good friend of the Foundation, was in the Bay Area in person last month to announce a grant worth $181,000 for the locally-based Urban Releaf, which has planted more than 10,000 trees in Oakland and Richmond and recruits young people to help.

The Mercury-News also cites the work of environmental writer Tim De Chant, whose use of satellite images present a stark portrait of what he calls “Income equality, as seen from space.”

Of course, planting trees is just the beginning. In order to survive, urban trees require continued maintenance and care, an area where resource-starved cities often fall short. This is a question of long-term priorities and investment that local decision-makers across the country must face. San Francisco’s decision to shift the responsibility for tree care to property owners is an example of a troubling step in the wrong direction, one which we hope will be halted as the economy continues to recover and municipalities reclaim some of their lost revenue base.

Image: USDA via Bay Area News Group

Partnerships central to Arbor Day Awards, inspiration for top honor to U.S. Forest Service

This year’s Arbor Day Awards, held at Lied Lodge & Conference Center on Saturday, April 28, took on a special meaning due to the 40 the anniversary of the Arbor Day Foundation and the 140th year of the tree planting holiday.

John Rosenow, founder and chief executive, noted that the first Arbor Day Awards were presented on the east portico of Arbor Lodge in 1972.

“A lot has happened in the tree planting world in the four decades since – both extraordinary accomplishments, and trends best reversed,” he said, echoing similar themes from an op-ed published in the Dallas Morning News the previous day.

The Arbor Day Foundation has been able to make progress on replanting in our nation’s forests, investing in effective management of community trees and other priorities in the past 40 years because of our strong partners. The invaluable contribution of Foundation partners was the inspiration behind our highest honor this year: A Legacy of Partnership Award for the United States Forest Service.

With the Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters, the U.S. Forest Service in 1976 launched Tree City USA to provide resources and recognition to communities for sustained investments in tree management and care. Today, more than 140 million Americans in 3,500 communities live in a Tree City USA.

The U.S. Forest Service has supported the planting of 24 million trees in more than 60 of our national forests, in partnership with the Foundation. The agency was also instrumental in the construction of Lied Lodge and Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm, where many of the Foundation’s core principles come to life.

The U.S. Forest Service was represented at the Arbor Day Awards by Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon, who was one of only two speakers during the presentation – Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was the other.

The short film prepared by the Foundation speaks to our enduring partnership, as well as the agency’s work with local stakeholders in its earlier years conserving land for future generations and collaborations with the Civilian Conservation Corps and Veterans Administration to create jobs.

You read more about all 16 of our 2012 Arbor Day Award winners and watch the short videos we put together here.