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VOL. 4, NO. 2 -- SUMMER 2002

Become a Tree Fighter

Street trees are good for us. They beautify our neighborhoods and increase our property values. Their leaves clean our air, and their roots reduce stormwater runoff. The trunks of street trees provide a physical barrier to protect pedestrians from traffic.

Street trees' canopies shade and shelter those walking along the sidewalks under them, making a quick walk to the corner store or a neighbor's house an enjoyable experience. Mature trees can even help us save energy and money in warm weather by cooling nearby buildings that then require less air conditioning.

The presence and condition of trees are a good measure of the health and quality of our community.
But did you know we have a "tree deficit" in the urban areas of the United States? More trees are being removed from the ground than are being planted.

Trees need advocates. Some people complain that they should be removed because they are messy and heave the sidewalks. Because they conflict with utility lines or traffic, municipal public works departments, utility companies and state departments of transportation sometimes have policies that discourage the presence of street trees. Municipalities, wary of the cost of maintenance or the liability of ownership sometimes encourage trees to be planted on private property only.

In "City, Rediscovering the Center," author William H. Whyte states, "A city needs tree fighters." Communities of all sizes need people who will be the street tree advocates, working for the planting, pruning and, when necessary, replacement of these important community assets.

Here are some things regular citizens like you can do to put or protect street trees in your town:

1. Join the National Arbor Day Foundation.
Log on at to learn how to celebrate National Arbor Day, about planting the right tree for the right spot, or to get a free copy of the "Greening America - Tree City USA" booklet.

2. Learn more about Urban Forestry.
Urban Forestry is a fast growing movement that recognizes trees are a vital part of any urban landscape. It supports the professionals and volunteers who do the important work of planting and caring for trees in our communities. Learn more at:

3. Read, "The Simple Act of Planting a Tree, A Citizen Forester's Guide to Healing Your Neighborhood, Your City, and Your World."
This inspiring book was written by a couple of citizen activists who committed to planting trees in Los Angeles. Their voices of experience were developed as they worked toward a million tree goal and will encourage you in your local efforts. You can read it online or order it at:

4. Meet With Whomever is In Charge of Tree Planting In Your Town.
You can start with the director of public works or talk to your local elected officials. Once you find out who is in charge, you can ask how best you can help.

5. Form or Serve on a Shade Tree Commission or Tree Board.
In many places, regular people like you serve their communities by volunteering on a Shade Tree Commission or Tree Board. If you don't have one, you can start one. For a further explanation of this important civic activity: