The importance of trees to our quality of life requires that we protect them. Property owners have a major responsibility to care for and maintain their trees. Citizens and communities must adopt and enforce sound policies and regulations that will protect the scenic, environmental, and economic benefits of trees. Below are some tree conservation strategies that your community can adopt to save its trees.
Educate property owners about how to care for and maintain their trees. Obtain good information about tree protection from professional foresters, horticulturists, landscape architects, and planners. Groups like the U.S Department of Agriculture Forest Service can help you to find these resources.
Involve citizens in preserving your community’s trees. Those who have lived in a community for many years have a deep understanding of the area’s needs. Experts such as tree or planning commission members, municipal attorneys, and environmental and natural resource consultants can contribute to the process by analyzing the best strategies for tree conservation policies to achieve desired community goals.
- Invite community groups, interested citizens, local leaders, and business owners to donate time and/or money to local landscaping and tree preservation efforts.
- Encourage local landowners to donate easements on woodlands to the community.
- Establish a volunteer program to maintain trees for elderly, disabled, or financially burdened property owners.
One of the best ways to promote tree preservation is to provide incentives. Incentives encourage landowners to protect their trees and improve the community. Some common incentives include:
- Establishing a community grant fund for replacing or planting new trees;
- Offering developers zoning incentives such as reduced setbacks or increased density in exchange for tree preservation; and
- Giving property tax breaks to landowners who agree to preserve their woodlands.
While purchasing tracts of woodland or easements is one of the most expensive options, outright purchase is sometimes the only way to permanently protect trees from development pressure.
Identify forested areas that are particularly vulnerable to development or deforestation and investigate donation or purchase of the area, or seek donation of easements on the land.
Encourage local governments, nonprofit organizations, land trusts, and private citizens to purchase land and place permanent restrictions on the deed before reselling or donating the land.
Adopt and enforce sound regulations that will protect the scenic, environmental and economic benefits of trees. Tree conservation ordinances are an important tool that may require planting street trees, protect sensitive forested areas, limit clearing during development, or provide incentives for development that preserves trees. Austin, TX; Seattle, WA; Cincinnati, OH; and Tampa, FL are just some of the cities across the country that have adopted strict tree preservation ordinances. Scenic America has created a model ordinance that can be found here.
Establish distance or buffer zone requirements to protect trees. Regulations requiring a buffer zone (typically 100 feet or more) between major roadways and any buildings on private land are an effective way to preserve trees and screen development. All trees within buffers are designated for conservation and removed only under exceptional circumstances.