LA Hires Its Own Lorax To Manage And Care For Our Trees
By Jessica P. Ogilvie and Emily Henderson
Los Angeles is located in a desert*, but that doesn't mean that we don't need someone to care (and speak!) for our trees.
Last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Rachel Malarich to step into this very role, as L.A.'s first City Forest Officer.
A certified arborist, Malarich spent ten years of her career at Tree People, according to a statement released by the mayor's office. As the City Forest Officer, she will be tasked with developing and implementing a long-term plan for forestry within the city.
Among Malarich's first goals, per Garcetti, is to inventory the city's existing trees, which are estimated to number around 10 million. That task will be largely funded by a grant given to the city by Cal Fire last year.
From there, she will oversee the planting of 90,000 new trees by 2021. Currently, the city removes approximately 3,000 trees per year and plants and distributes approximately 23,000 trees through the Bureau of Street Services, the Department of Recreation and Parks and a collaboration with the non-profit organization City Plants.
By 2028, Malarich hopes to increase the tree canopy — defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as "the layer of tree leaves, branches, and stems that provide tree coverage of the ground when viewed from above" — by 50% in areas with the least shade.
She plans to focus those efforts on low-income and underserved neighborhoods, as well as areas that don't have many parks.
"Trees are such an amazing ally for us when it comes to public health," Malarich said. "They reduce urban heat island effect, and... obviously reduced rates of asthma. And then (there's) that feeling of positive social well-being."
The goal of planting 90,000 new trees is part of Garcetti's Green New Deal, which states that such an effort would support 2,000 jobs and provide 61.3 million square feet of shade when the trees reach maturity.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Rachel Malarich spent the last ten years of her career at Tree People. She did spend ten years at the organization, however she held another job between working for Tree People and the City of Los Angeles. LAist regrets the error.
*In response to an overwhelming number of reader comments, we investigated whether L.A. really is or is not a desert. It turns out...it's complicated.