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NYC's 2005 Tree Census

Volunteer "Tree Stewards" will get three hours of training, use handheld computers donated by Hewlett Packard, and commit to one census zone-approximately 300 trees-to arrive at a snapshot of NYC's tree population.

The largest street tree inventory in the nation is about to be launched in New York City by the Parks & Recreation Department. With 1,000 volunteers, the count will not just be for the numbers, but also include tree condition, circumference, location, species, power line and sidewalk interference-even the condition and placement of tree guards. These "tree stewards" will take note of every Norway maple, London plane and honey maple, every silver linden, pin oak and red bud, every Callery pear, Japanese pagoda and ginkgo--not to mention every Japanese Zelkova, Kentucky coffee tree and flowering cherry. Their wounds will be cataloged-every gouge from car doors, bicycle locks and traffic accidents, every carved initial and root cramp, plus every "infrastructure conflict" such as hanging bird houses and stapled flyers. The last count, done in 1995, came in with 498,470 street trees-out of a total of about 5 million, if you include those in parks and backyards. They will be taking extra careful looks at London planes and Norway maples (Robert Moses' favorite varieties) for Asian longhorn beetle infestation. Those species are no longer planted because they both host the six-legged alien, which is the biggest threat to all trees on the east coast.

Jennifer Greenfield, Director of the New York Tree Trust, says that trees are the only investment a city makes that increases in value over time. The Trust will be using the data in conjunction with STRATUM, an economic model developed by UC Davis, which gives a bottom line summary of each tree's ability to reduce carbon, pollution and energy bills over time. The "return on investment" for each tree planting can vary from state to state with a range of $1.37 in Berkeley to $3.09 in Bismark, N.D. Another 2001 study in New York concluded that urban trees statewide have a compensatory value of $84 billion and a carbon storage value of $500 million. The time has come to count our trees-and our blessings!

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December 14, 2019, 8:05 am PDT

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