By: The Working Forest Staff
Dallas News — The city is partnering with the Texas Trees Foundation to develop a plan that will protect the city’s trees and plant more of them to keep the area cooler when temperatures rise.
It’s a coincidence that the plan’s announcement comes weeks after straight-line winds downed hundreds of trees across Dallas, said Susan Alvarez, assistant director for the Office of Environmental Quality and Sustainability.
“But it is certainly no less important that we do it now,” she said.
According to a report by the Dallas News, the Urban Forestry Master Plan has been the subject of several months of talks and more than half a year of fundraising, Alvarez said.
Together, the city and the Trees Foundation will work to find the best ways to protect healthy trees, strategize on where to plant more trees to help mitigate the “heat island effect” — the heat produced by people, vehicles and energy use in large cities — and unite urban forestry efforts.
“We have foresters in multiple departments, but we don’t have a cohesive program. We’re hoping this plan can help get us there,” Alvarez said. The plan “becomes a more holistic look at what our tree canopy is.”
The Texas Trees Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and enhancing urban forests in the state, raised $230,000 for the plan, which will be matched by $50,000 from the city, according to a memo presented to the City Council last week.
“This is a big step. It is the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of different people,” said Matt Grubisich, director of operations and urban forestry for the foundation. “When I first moved to Dallas 19 years ago, trying to talk trees at the horseshoe [the council] didn’t get very far. It was development first.”
In addition to keeping the city cooler during the summer, protecting the city’s trees would also save Dallas money.
A 2015 study by the Texas Trees Foundation found that the city’s trees — 14.7 million of them — save the city more than $9 million annually through energy conservation and an additional $4 million in repairs to stormwater management infrastructure by collecting 59 million cubic feet of runoff.
The study also could provide insight on where the city needs more trees. It found that 37% of the city’s total tree canopy — the layer of trees that cover the ground when seen from above — is south of Interstate 30.
Davey Research Group, a naturalist consulting firm, will be tasked with developing the plan, which will take about 10 months, Grubisich said. The firm will form an advisory group — made up of tree experts from outside the city, city department heads, neighborhood organizations, and companies such as Oncor — to get insights on what the plan should include.
“You have different people touching trees, but you need to have a goal and a vision,” Grubisich said. “A master plan sets the vision and goals for the city’s urban forest.”
The master plan will provide a framework, and then the city can begin to decide where it will plant more trees, how many and other details, Grubisich said.
In what Alvarez called an “incredibly good parallel effort,” the city hopes to roll out the plan next year around the time the Dallas climate action plan is launched. That’s scheduled for April.
Before then, the city plans to give out about 2,500 trees to Dallas homeowners on Nov. 2, Texas Arbor Day. Dallas hosted a similar event in the spring when it gave out over 2,600 trees through Branch Out Dallas, a city-funded program aimed at reducing the heat island effect and improving air quality.
The trees handed out in November will be Texas natives “that will do well here,” Alvarez said.
Grubisich said he’s hopeful that by fall 2020, Dallas could begin to see large-scale tree-planting efforts.
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