Monday, January 20, 2014

Act Now to Save Greater New Haven’s Trees!

New Haven area residents love their trees. For the past five years the City of New Haven has participated in the TreeHaven 10K campaign, with the goal of planting 10,000 trees throughout the City by the end of 2014. Through the Request a Tree program, managed by the Urban Resources Initiative, thousands of trees have been planted in neighborhoods where residents have asked for trees and promised to care for them. 

The Garden Club of New Haven is doing all it can to repopulate the City with American Elms. 

So, you can imagine the uproar when United Illuminating (UI), the electrical provider servicing much of the greater New Haven area, unveiled its Vegetation Management Plan in November, the utility's response to the power outages due to falling trees and tree limbs in the state’s recent super storms. This action plan sets new guidelines for preemptive tree trimming. In the past UI has trimmed trees in a “V” fashion, allowing for an 8 feet clearance on either side of the power lines. The new guidelines call for an 8 foot clear zone from the ground to the sky. Any vegetation infringing on this path will be removed.

In early December The Garden Club of New Haven launched a vigorous protest to UI’s plan on the club’s website.To support their stance, the club posted a fall photo of Edwards Street in New Haven with a Photoshopped version of the same spot after ground to sky trimming as well as a PowerPoint presentation “Trees and Power.”  

Edwards Street in New Haven
Same view after ground to sky trimming
Garden Club of New Haven spokesperson Mikey Hisrchoff stated in a December 10 interview with Mark Zaretsky in the New Haven Register that ‘“in New Haven, this would mean the lost of 50% of its street trees.” 

The Vegetative Management Plan was approved by CT’s Public Utility and Regulatory Authority (PURA), is already underway as a pilot program in Orange, and is slated to begin in Hamden in the very near future. Hamden residents have expressed outrage at recent public forums on the plan. 

On January 17, Thomas MacMillan reported in The New Haven Independent that newly-elected New Haven Alder Mike Stratton has proposed legislation blocking the enforcement of the 8 foot clear zone and requiring UI to approach tree pruning on a “tree by tree” basis under supervision of the City’s tree warden. Urban forester Chris Ozyck of URI called Stratton’s proposal “a good start.” He also speculated that the plan might be overly aggressive since many of the weakened trees and limbs have already come down in the State’s recent storms.

If the image of future Edwards Street is not enough to alarm you, check out this site for information on the value of treesSome of the benefits are:
  • A tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, and can sequester one ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old.
  • For every five percent of tree cover added to a community, storm water runoff is reduced by approximately two percent. 
  • According to the USDA Forest Service, “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and save 20-50 percent in energy used for heating.”

There is a tool for calculating the value of a particular tree in your yard or on your curb. Enter your zip code, followed by the tree name and its diameter, and you will be rewarded with a pie chart indicating a number of values from the CO2 it removes to the dollar amount it adds to your property value. 

Greater New Haven’s trees are already at risk from tiny invasive insects including the Emerald Ash Borer, discovered last summer in Hamden, and the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, which has invaded the neighboring states of Massachusetts and New York. It is difficult to mobilize against a danger so hard to detect.

But collective effort should be able to prevent, or at least temper, this newest threat of the human kind. We can clearly see it coming, and we know its intended targets.

If you live somewhere in Greater New Haven, I hope I’ve got you good and worked up by now. As Randall Beach opined in the New Haven Register on January 16, “If we want to save our trees…the time is now.” 

Martin Luther King Day is meant to be a day for action and civic involvement. Take a few moments today to let your local officials, and your tree warden if you have one, know just where you stand on this issue.

If you were expecting a Meatless Monday post, you will have to wait until next week. This was too hot a topic to ignore.

I am a New Haven resident and have been a Connecticut Master Gardener since 2012. On Mondays I normally blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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