Writing for PlaceMakers, Scott Doyon recently argued that among the seven highly useful keys to a stronger community is a commitment to a strong tree canopy. However, Doyon notes that many communities approach this issue the wrong way:
[…] communities concerned about their tree canopy deal with its preservation through ordinances that prevent tree removal. Not to say that such ordinances are categorically wrong, mind you. Just that, by focusing mostly on trees at the tail end of their lives — the ones that get the most notice and inspire the greatest affection — they steal attention from what should be the greater goal.
Doyon goes on to argue that preservation efforts are unnecessarily divisive. Instead, he suggests that communities should focus on replanting because replanting efforts add to the canopy and don’t drive a wedge between differing factions. Kaid Benfield also later pointed out that the focus shouldn’t be about preservation verses tree removal. Like Doyon, he emphasizes ongoing planting.
These points are especially significant for a growing city like Provo because trees can sometimes provide indirect incentives to build sprawl; if no trees can be cut down the only place to build is in undeveloped land where there are either no trees or no tree preservationists. As I’ve recently advocated building more housing in Provo’s existing neighborhoods, for example, one of the most common objections I’ve heard is that doing so would require cutting down trees.
And it would.
But an ongoing emphasis on replanting — combined with gradual building — would mean ongoing replenishment of Provo’s significant tree canopy. That would open the door for more positive infill, along with more trees.