A great piece of investigative reporting in the Boston Globe revealed how far the City of Boston has been lagging on its promise to plant 100,000 new trees by 2020. This worthy goal, originally laid out by Mayor Menino, involved a commitment to grow and expand the city’s overall tree canopy by 20 percent. In addition to improving the quality of life for Boston residents, the project offers very positive environmental benefits and constitutes a relatively simple way to deal with carbon emissions and curb energy use. The article pointed out a few troubling items such as the fact that New York City planned to plant 1 million trees by 2017 — and met this goal two years early. In addition, satellite photos revealed that Boston’s canopy might actually have been reduced over the last few years which means it now lags behind many other urban areas in the US. City officials claim that one reason for the lapse was an emphasis on preserving older more mature trees. But this effort has also faltered because “with the city’s breakneck pace of development, mature trees have often become casualties to new buildings, byways, and other municipal projects.” Once again the notion of carelessly applied economic growth is surfacing — a troubling trend seen in other cities throughout the world as described in a previous blog post. Have Boston city officials gotten a wake up call about this lapse in stated policy and environmental commitment? Time will tell. Here’s what Chris Cook, commissioner of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department said: “I would say not only can we do better, but we should do better and will do better. We’re going to have to take a different approach.” Here in the second largest city in Massachusetts, there have been some unique challenges. According to Ruth Seward, Executive Director of the Worcester Tree Initiative, WTI in collaboration with the City of Worcester Forestry Department and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, has planted over 34,000 trees. These trees replace those that have been cut down because of the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) infestation that has plagued the city for years. With so many now in place, WTI’s current focus heavily favors tree watering and ongoing tree care. According to WTI executive director Ruth Seward: “We work hard to educate and engage with the community, launching programs such as the Master Tree Stewards Program and young student engagement opportunities in the public schools and colleges. Much research shows the invaluable benefits of trees, especially in a person’s immediate environment. Trees not only provide oxygen to our planet, they also pull particulates out of the air, improving air quality. Trees mitigate problems associated with storm water – such as flooding and soil erosion. Strategically planted trees reduce noise, lower energy costs in summer and winter, and even can reduce crime. Research also shows that trees are being cut down at an increased rate in our country, as we move from a rural culture to a more developed suburban and urban society.” The large number of trees planted in Worcester has been a big success story in terms of the fight against ALB infestation. But while that initiative has kept pace with the attrition caused by ALB, the larger battle continues to center on the problem of major tree loss due to economic and land development. In many ways, this battle is a tougher one that, according to WTI, as it threatens to work against previous replanting efforts. One of the reasons economic sprawl is more challenging is the lack of data sources regarding trees being removed due to development. In 2018 and 2019, WTI hopes to work with the city to help address this problem. – Tom Valovic —– —– —– —– —– Tom Valovic is a volunteer with the Worcester Tree Initiative and a freelance writer and editor. Tom has written articles for “The Boston Globe”, “The San Francisco Examiner”, “Annals of Earth”, “Whole Earth Review”, “Common Dreams”, “Computerworld” and many other publications. He has written about technology and its effects on appreciation of the natural world in “Digital Mythologies”(Rutgers University Press). Tom can be reached at [email protected].