According to the South Bend Parks and Rec. 2015 Annual Report, they cut down nearly nine times as many trees as they planted (725 park and street trees cut down vs 83 planted). What’s frightening is that this only takes into account the quantity of lost trees. However, larger trees process far more carbon dioxide, produce more oxygen, and have a far greater impact on temperature and air quality than smaller trees do. If every degree the city is cooled saves millions of dollars in HVAC energy costs and trees are the easiest way to control that, the loss is quite significant across the city.
In all cases, trees loss should be mitigated similar to wetlands in a ratio of 3 to one or better. Meaning that for every one tree cut down, we would replace that with three new trees. Wetland mitigation is state mandated and due to the implications of tree loss, their replacement process should be similar. As part of an ordinance or state law, this would ensure that no matter who cut down the valued trees, they would be replaced. Even if it’s not on the same property, credits could be purchased to ensure the same offset attained.
Phytosphere Research, a nationally recognized urban forestry consultancy, provides four key recommendations for municipal tree mitigation tactics and ordinances:
- Allow for the full range of mitigation options (on and off site, protection and planting, in-lieu fees) to provide flexibility to deal with a range of different permit situations.
- Permitting authority should have the option to select and/or approve appropriate mitigation options (including a combination of tactics) based on the local government’s management goals and priorities, and the particular circumstances of each project.
- Trees or woodland/forest resources maintained by the applicant will need to be monitored by the local government to ensure and enforce compliance. The ordinance should expressly provide this authority.
- Fees charged should be sufficient to provide for ongoing monitoring and maintenance, including eventual replanting. If direct mitigation by applicant is allowed, additional fees may be necessary to provide for monitoring, maintenance, and enforcement.