Thursday, April 29, 2010

Charlotte's huge tree loss

A report to be given to the City Council on Monday shows that the city has lost half its tree cover since 1985. Read the report here - it starts on page 70 of the pdf.

The county as a whole has lost 33 percent of the tree cover it had in 1985, the report found.
The study is an Urban Ecosystem Analysis, performed with satellite imagery, GIS technology and American Forests' software. A major grant from The Women’s Impact Fund made it possible, with help from digital imagery provided by Mecklenburg County, and additional funding from the City of Charlotte and the Blumenthal Foundation.

The report notes: "Charlotte Mecklenburg’s tree cover has declined for the last 23 years and new policies and practices will need to emerge to reverse this trend. Based upon this latest data,
tree canopy in Mecklenburg County has reached the point where further decline will cause the County to fall below levels recommended by American Forests. Charlotte Mecklenburg is now at a crossroads that will set the course for environmental quality for decades to come."

The city and the county must begin counting trees as part of the essential urban infrastructure. Today they don't.

Yes, any time a city grows into greenfield areas it will lose large tracts of previously undeveloped woods. The problem isn't that the city has grown, but that it hasn't grown smartly – meaning that while plenty of land was targeted for development, no land was set aside for non-development. Other cities have done this routinely, through strategic use of water/sewer service and roads/no-roads policies. Many require parkland to be set aside (or a fee in lieu) with each development. This helps make up for the inevitable tree loss when greenfields get developed.

Not here.


Sam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ryan said...

yeah we all know those pesky trees aren't good for anything, right Sam?

Carol said...

What should we do Sam? Pave the Earth? How is this a liberal or conservative topic?

Thad said...

Wasn't Myers Park built on an old farmers land?

It takes time for trees to grow. These new subdivisions will be tree covered like Myers Park after they are built.

What about the kudzu that kills many trees and the city does nothing.

Dave said...

Interesting. Did they take into account all the new trees that have been planted along roads, sidewalks, and other areas around the city? Probably not...leaving that information out would dilute another "environmental crisis" in order to "change policy".

For a city of 600,000 - 700,000 people, it is VERY green. Many new trees have been planted around the city and county; it will just take a few years before they'll be able to create the apparently coveted "green canopy". This is such a non-issue.

The Freeholder said...

I'm curious about how tree-cutting in order to install sidewalks will be viewed now.

madmike said...

Where was your arguement a few weeks ago when the folks along park road were trying to prevent the sidewalk from being built in front of thier homes becasue it was going to take thier big trees down?

Wide streets and sidewalks means less trees in the right of way.

Jeremy said...

Funny enough, I'm currently designing a planting plan for a project within the City of Charlotte. The city requires a large maturing tree every 40' along new roads (both sides) and every new parking space must be within 60' of a large maturing tree. They are very stringent about replacing trees removed and pervious area calculations also. Where they do fall short is when the "arborist" trim trees under powerlines to give them a reverse mohawk look, but then again that probably falls on the designer that propose a 50' tall tree to be planted under a 25' tall powerline. Give the trees another 25 years to grow and recheck the canopy. You'll be surprised.

Dale Johnson said...

German researchers have identified a previously unknown emitter of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The culprit: ordinary plants.
The first hints arrived last year when the European Space Agency's ENVISAT satellite detected huge clouds of methane above forested areas. Scientists could not understand where the gas came from, because they thought methane was produced only in oxygen-poor environments like swamps and rice paddies, where decomposition occurs. To investigate, geochemist Frank Keppler and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics placed a variety of plants in test chambers and filled the rooms with methane-free air. He was amazed to see chemical sensors in the room quickly begin detecting methane. "At the moment, it is a mystery," he says. "If you look at the textbooks, you will see that it was not envisioned that this could happen."
Turning up the heat seems to increase the rate at which the plants produce methane, Keppler says, which could explain why atmospheric levels of methane were high hundreds of thousands of years ago when global temperatures were balmy. The new finding also adds a twist to our understanding of Earth's climate. Methane is the second biggest contributor to global warming, and although Keppler doesn't think we should stop planting trees, he says we need to factor them into our projections. "If global warming continues, we could get a higher flux of methane from the plants," he says. "We could get a massive feedback reaction." 

Daniel said...

>further decline will cause the County to fall below levels recommended by American Forests

While I'm a bit of a treehugger myself, Charlotte is a city, not a forest. Hello? McFly?

Anonymous said...

Carol - this absolutely is a conservative/liberal argument. Liberals can never have enough government - they want government input, or outright control - of everything. New liberal policies that require X amount of tree planting not only feeds liberals' government addiction, but dovetails very nicely with their argument that the activity of man is the ONE and ONLY cause of global warming - which also requires more government to reverse.

Every time I meet a person who is new to this area, the new person marvels at how many trees we have. This report that we are in crisis with our lack of trees, is greatly exaggerated.

And as for the loss of the number of trees here, I have 2 words for you - Hurricane Hugo. Some of the most enduring images from that storm are the tremendous number of trees on the streets - many of which were at least 50 years old. It's been 20 years since the storm, so that storm is still affecting the tree canopy somewhat.

But those are facts. We must not allow facts to get in the way of a good crisis, even if the crisis is imagined.

KarenN said...

You don't have to plow everything down to build a development. My grandfather built a lot of homes in Charlotte back in the 50', 60's. They didn't plow everything under. But some trees will be lost
when building but I think Charlotte home owners are great about planting. I think the problem became apparant with Hugo. Many of our older, larger trees' root systems have been compromised by sidewalks and road widenings. That's how we are losing much of our coverage.

Daniel said...

Ever been in a tall building uptown? Look in any direction and the landscape is dominated by green.

If I'm not mistaken, the American city with the most trees is Pittsburgh. Not because of any planning, but because the pitch of certain hills isn't suitable for development. Yet there's really no comparing the two cities. Charlotte is much greener.

I'm skeptical.

Larry said...

Up until Sept. 22cd 1989 I loved the trees.

justiceforpalestine said...

The problem is much deeper than that. It has to do with capitalism and racism. Charlotte’s land development has increased at higher proportion than its population. This means that the city of Charlotte cleared woods for new development not because they were running out of place. Rather, because they happened to be fleeing an area deemed blighted (read = inhabited by African Americans and low income families). It is ironic to see the city going into new areas while a large vast of developed areas are vacant. Eastland Mall, most of Albemarle rd, Independence blvd, etc, are such examples. Instead of rehabilitating these areas and make them livable for everyone, it is easier, for the developers to dispose of it and go for a new land.

Larry said...

Justice for Palestine

Are you writing us from 1967?

misswhit said...

As we watched the Quail Hollow tournament on TV last night we couldn't help but notice how forested the city looked from the shots taken from the blimp. An out of town visitor even commented on this. Exactly how do we compare to other cities?
Also, I agree with the poster who mentioned that it takes time for a neighborhood to develop tree cover. My subdivision is about 20 years old and this spring it looks absolutely magnificent. We've all noticed that suddenly our area seems "mature". As new neighborhoods age this is going to gradually happen--but again, that takes time. Development in Mecklenburg County is newer than in many older cities, so naturally tree cover may appear less mature than in other longer developed places. Give the county a few more years.

Marty said...

I'm pretty sure the vast majority of this "deforestation" took place on September 22, 1989.

Ed said...

It's a small price to pay for all those beautiful mansions and condominium projects.

Jumper said...

Seems like the only solution, short of stopping Charlotte's growth in population altogether, or going back to exurban development across the county lines, is to ramp up private tree growth by individuals.

And many, including possibly here on this forum, don't realize that if trees are given even cursory care including small occasional doses of fertilizer and SOME supplemental water during the worst droughts, growth can be quite a bit more rapid than would occur if foregoing these measures.

Although I like the looks of vegetable gardens as well as trees.

Lana said...

Any measurement of Charlotte's tree canopy that utilizes a pre-Hugo starting point is categorically dishonest.

consultant said...

If you haven't seen it, check out this video about Atlanta sprawl and the alternative:

Charlotte wants to emulate big brother Atlanta. Bad move.

Smart growth. Good move.