Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quantifying the Value of Tree Canopy To Communities

It isn’t just its rural countryside, beaches and mountains that give North Carolina a special sense of place.  One of the first remarks people visiting or moving to a place like Durham NC make is about the how green and tree covered it is and I’m sure the same it true of many of the State’s other cities and towns.

One city and county, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County has taken a very smart approach.  It commissioned a study by American Forests, a non-profit founded in 1875 of the tree canopy in that county, how much has been lost with recommendations on what should be done to preserve what’s left along with quantification of its

Thanks to Pat Carstensen the study is making the rounds on Durham listservs and well it should.

While Charlotte and its surrounding county still have 50% tree canopy, the study documents that county lost 33% of that canopy and 3% of its open space in the 13 years ending in 2008.  Charlotte alone lost half of its tree canopy and 5% of its open space during the period.

The study documents cost in dollars to that city and county (pollution, storm run-off etc) along with the value of adding to the tree canopy which if ever implemented can provide an extremely valuable input to zoning and development decisions.

Kudos to American Forests and communities that are having studies like this performed….for information on analysis American Forests has done for other communities, log on to .  In fact, the State of North Carolina should consider a study like this to balance economic development decisions.

Too often cities, counties and states go after development-centric economic development armed with only the potential economic upside.  There is always a cost to economic development and studies like this help inform those decisions as well as equip participants to take proactive steps to preserve and grow this valuable asset.

We can never forget that place-based assets, natural, cultural and built are key to why residents love communities and pivotal to why they draw visitor centric economic development.

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