I backed off a little when I learned that the goal included trees planted on private property by homeowners and business owners. But something else has happened since then that makes me rethink my skepticism even more.
After the jump, the record-breaking drought.
According to a widely published report by the Texas Forest Service, the drought is deadly to Texas urban trees:
Five million urban trees! It's worse if you count all the trees in the state:On Wednesday, Texas Forest Service researchers said the current drought claimed the lives of about 5.6 million trees in cities, or roughly 10 percent of the state's urban forestsSource: Statesman.com.
Five hundred million trees! Let that sink in. Richardson's "Tree the Town" program's goal of 50,000 trees is beginning to look, if anything, too small. (I'm not applying my usual skeptical double-check on that 500 million figure. In this case, any big number is disaster enough.)The December preliminary report said the drought killed as much as 10 percent of the state's forest cover -- as many as 500 million trees in outlying areas.Source: Statesman.com.
Of course, planting trees during a drought is risky business. Young trees are vulnerable to lack of water. Water is needed for other worthwhile uses -- like consumption by humans to stay alive, for example. Tree planting programs need to carefully weigh all these competing demands on our limited water supply. That analysis needs to consider not just the cost of the water needed, but the cost of losing five million urban trees if we don't water them. Shade for buildings reduces cooling costs. Roots stop erosion. Trees make a city more livable. So, Richardson, don't give up on "Tree the Town." Maybe the program needs to adapt to the drought, but, because of the drought, it's needed more than ever.