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Earth Day: The importance of trees
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Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
--Warren Buffett

Most everyone appreciates the aesthetic value of trees but have you ever thought about the real worth of our trees? From a real estate standpoint, homes with quality landscaping and adjacent street trees have a greater value – up to 20 percent. The cities of Macon, Ga., and Washington, D.C., see a boost in tourism dollars when their cherry trees are in bloom. And who could visit one of the historic cities in the Deep South and not enjoy the beauty of our majestic live oaks?
The trees in our cities today make up what are referred as urban forests. Today, 25 percent of our forest land is in urban areas. More importantly, America’s urban forests remove 700,000 metric tons of pollution from our atmosphere each year. Urban eco-systems are vital for the part they play in the environment, cycling water, air and carbon sequestration. According to a study done by the USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C.’s 1.9 million trees remove 540 tons of pollution at a cost of $2.5 million annually and result in an energy conservation savings of $2.6 million annually. A study done by the Forest Service in Charlotte, N.C., analyzed the cost of the trees, maintenance, replanting and labor costs versus benefits of air quality, energy reduction, stormwater volume reduction. They found that for every $1 spent there was a return of $3.25.
The Coastal Bryan Tree Foundation began planting trees in our community in 2002. Since then, we’ve planted nearly 500 trees, 300 which are located in the city of Richmond Hill. According to data provided by the Arbor Day Foundation, considering cost reductions for energy, storm water management and erosion control, those trees yield in overall benefits to the city an average of $273 per tree. Our organization also worked with the city, county, builders and developers to draft a tree ordinance; work which was done at no cost to the city or county in 2005-2006. The ordinance established a minimum canopy requirement of 40 percent per acre, which equates to about 12-14 trees. The requirement can be met by savi ng existing trees or, in cases where that isn’t feasible or the trees aren’t suitable for saving, replanting. As an example, the Publix site would have complied with the ordinance as written by Coastal Bryan Tree Foundation and adopted by Bryan County in April 2007.  The city of Richmond Hill unfortunately still has yet to pass a tree ordinance.
We’re beginning to realize that trees are not just for beautification, they’re also a very important environmental resource, especially in our cities. What can you do to help? Become educated. Every person can have a positive impact on the environment. Tomorrow’s Earth Day – what a great time to begin.
For more information on Coastal Bryan Tree Foundation, visit our website: or visit us on Facebook.
Wendy Bolton of Richmond Hill is president of the Coastal Bryan Tree Foundation.

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