LA's Trees Need A Little More TLC ($50 Million Would Do The Trick)

More than a million trees make up L.A.'s urban forest. (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

At more than a million trees, Los Angeles has the largest urban forest in the nation (and by urban forest, we mean trees in urban areas, like parks and along streets). But it turns out, L.A. is slacking when it comes to spending on trees.

Cities like New York and San Francisco allocate more than $70 per tree per year, while Los Angeles is shelling out less than $30. That's according to a study by City Plants, an organization that brings together nonprofits and the city.

City Plants hired a consultant to do a 10-month study of L.A.'s urban forest, which was presented this week to L.A.'s Department of Public Works.

City Plants Executive Director Elizabeth Skrzat said people take trees for granted.

"They play a critical role in giving us clean air, in giving us better health," she said. "Trees are the lungs of our city."

When the budget crisis of 2008 hit, tree planting and maintenance were among the things that got the axe. Since then, spending has been slowly creeping up, but still not enough.

Trees help clean the air of pollutants, provide much-needed shade to combat the urban heat island effect, and help us de-stress.

At Monday's meeting, the board of the Department of Public Works agreed, unanimously approving a motion to take the first steps toward developing an urban forest management plan, which could attract $50 million in funding, tripling current spending from about $25 million to about $75 million.

"This is a very exciting time for trees in Los Angeles," Skrzat said.

SO WHAT'S CHANGING?

The study recommended the city should do the following: :

  • Prioritize the urban forest
  • Hire an urban forestry coordinator
  • Complete a tree inventory and implement a management software program
  • Increase urban forestry funding and complete a financing plan
  • Improve public outreach, awareness and engagement
  • Implement a final urban forest management plan

The Department of Public Works has already started on the first three steps (bulleted above), which includes counting exactly how many trees are in the city.

Greg Spotts, an assistant director at the department's Bureau of Street Services, said since the summer, the L.A. City Council has authorized 55 new jobs, including the manpower needed for four new tree trimming crews, a dead tree removal crew and a tree planting and watering crew. And city processes are being reformed so mature street trees can be protected.

"Now really, for the first time in a decade, we will have all the in-house capabilities to do the full set of activities that the urban forest needs."

And looks like L.A. isn't the only one interested in more trees...


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