Still green, still great: Na­tional tree pro­gram marks 40 years of green­ing U.S. streets

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Ap­ple com­put­ers, the rock band U2, “Rocky” and two na­tional foot­ball teams — of all the things that turn 40 in 2016, none have trans­formed the Amer­i­can land­scape as defini­tively and beau­ti­fully as the Ar­bor Day Foun­da­tion’s Tree City USA pro­gram.

Since its in­cep­tion with part­ners from the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of State Foresters and the United States For­est Ser­vice in 1976, the pro­gram has sup­ported and rec­og­nized tree sus­tain­abil­ity pro­grams in more than 3,400 Amer­i­can cities, in­hab­ited by more than 135 mil­lion peo­ple.

The thou­sands of Tree City USA mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties meet core stan­dards of sound ur­ban forestry man­age­ment, in­clud­ing:

• Hav­ing a tree board or de­part­ment charged with car­ing for the com­mu­nity’s trees.

• Adopt­ing a tree or­di­nance that pro­vides clear guid­ance for plant­ing, main­tain­ing and re­mov­ing trees in pub­lic spa­ces like parks and along streets.

• Spend­ing at least $2 per cit­i­zen on a com­mu­nity forestry pro­gram.

• Ob­serv­ing Ar­bor Day with a for­mal­ized Ar­bor Day cel­e­bra­tion.

“Meet­ing these core stan­dards means a com­mu­nity is com­mit­ted to keep­ing its trees healthy and pub­lic spa­ces green,” said Dan Lambe, pres­i­dent of the Ar­bor Day Foun­da­tion. “Every­one ben­e­fits when elected of­fi­cials, vol­un­teers and com­mit­ted cit­i­zens make smart in­vest­ments in ur­ban forests. Trees bring shade to our homes and beauty to our neigh­bor­hoods, along with nu­mer­ous eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits.”

Not only does the Tree City USA des­ig­na­tion make com­mu­ni­ties beau­ti­ful, other ben­e­fits in­clude:

• Homes with trees as part of their land­scap­ing are worth more. A study by the U.S. For­est Ser­vice’s Pa­cific North­west Sta­tion in Port­land, Ore­gon found homes with trees be­tween the side­walk and street sold for $7,130 more, on av­er­age, than homes that didn’t have trees by the street. What’s more, neigh­bor­ing homes see their home val­ues boosted more than $1,600, even though the trees aren’t on their prop­erty.

• Trees make shop­pers happy; a study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Forestry found sur­veyed shop­pers viewed re­tail lo­ca­tions with trees to be more ap­peal­ing than those with­out, and were will­ing to spend more for goods and ser­vices where trees were present.

• Due to their calm­ing ef­fect, trees are thought to help make neigh­bor­hoods safer, and mul­ti­ple stud­ies show com­mu­ni­ties with more trees have fewer in­ci­dences of vi­o­lence.

• Trees can im­prove a com­mu­nity’s energy ef­fi­ciency and air qual­ity, con­trol storm wa­ter runoff, re­duce flood­ing risks and make pub­lic ar­eas more beau­ti­ful and ap­peal­ing.

Any com­mu­nity meet­ing the pro­gram’s four core stan­dards is el­i­gi­ble to be­come a Tree City, and 16of the cur­rent 3,400-plus par­tic­i­pat­ing com­mu­ni­ties are cel­e­brat­ing their 40th an­niver­sary with the pro­gram.

The small­est tree city is Si­b­ley, North Dakota with a pop­u­la­tion of just 28 peo­ple, and the largest is New York, with a pop­u­la­tion of more than 8.4 mil­lion. Ohio is the state with the most Tree Cities: 242. Ev­ery state has at least one Tree City.

Although 3,400 ac­tive com­mu­ni­ties are al­ready Tree Cities, there is still work to be done. The Ar­bor Day Foun­da­tion’s web­site of­fers in­for­ma­tion, ad­vice, re­sources and an on­line ap­pli­ca­tion form to help com­mu­ni­ties be­come a part of this 40-year suc­cess story. To learn more about the Tree City USA pro­gram, go to­bor­day. org.

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