Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Of Droughts and Trees

Richardson's "Tree the Town" project has a goal of planting 50,000 trees. "Tree North Texas" has a goal of planting 3,000,000 trees. The current drought being experienced across Texas shouldn't change those ambitions, but it does require some adaptation.

After the jump, some thoughts by the arborist for the City of Dallas, Phil Erwin.

City of Dallas arborist Phil Erwin published his thoughts on his personal blog in a article titled, "Managing An Urban Forest In A Drought."

Erwin reports that Houston is in the midst of its worst drought in its 175-year history. It expects to lose 66 million trees in the next two years. Repeat: 66 million. It makes the goal of planting 3 million trees by "Tree North Texas" sound like an Arbor Day afternoon outing. Erwin says that "Trees for Houston" has temporarily shifted most of its planting money to contracting for watering trucks to preserve existing trees. The city is removing trees that can't be saved as soon as possible to reduce fire danger. Elsewhere in Houston this week, a fire in a Houston park was almost a mile wide and required the efforts of 175 fire fighters to bring it under control.

Erwin stresses that we shouldn't give up on trees. Their long-term benefits of providing cooling shade and air freshening make it worth the cost and effort to ensure they survive the current drought. For a year or two of special care, the payback will last for decades.

What lessons should the City of Richardson draw from Erwin's thoughts? Because young trees are not yet drought-hardened, "Tree the Town" ought to review its plans to make sure that resources are there to water new trees in case this drought lasts through the winter and even longer. Temporarily redirecting resources from planting efforts to watering efforts, like Houston is doing, might be called for here, too.

Richardson also ought to be closely monitoring the situation in our parks, especially the Spring Creek Nature Area, 51 acres of native hardwoods and the secret gem of Richardson's parks system. A small fire near the park in early August burned three to four acres. With the drought, the chances of a catastrophic fire can only worsen.

Oh, and I suppose that praying for rain can't hurt, although it's a poor substitute for prudent action.

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