If I were to ask you to think of your favorite tree, what image would come to mind? Maybe it conjures a childhood memory of where you use to climb, or play or hide. Or maybe it’s the place you stop every evening to let your dog rest from the heat of a summer walk? Trees are amazingly versatile, they produce fruit to eat, oxygen to breathe, clean water to drink, building materials to put a roof over our heads, and the source of paper we use for school and work, among countless other benefits. But our trees are in trouble.
Albuquerque’s tree cover is currently less than 10%, which is low even for a desert city. And, we are losing some of our most valuable shade as our largest trees die of old age faster than we can plant the next generation. It is almost certain that you have heard about the heat waves that are impacting people’s lives across the planet as temperatures rise because of climate change. These temperatures necessitate action for people and nature. Planting trees can help solve the problem.
We depend on trees to improve our natural environment and our quality of life, which is why planting more trees is central to The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Urban Conservation Program. This initiative is designed to integrate nature within our city infrastructure, helping us to make progress on some of our most pressing challenges. Central to these efforts, we strongly support and pledge to work with the city of Albuquerque and many other partners to plant 100,000 trees over the next 10 years – one for every child in the city – to cool our neighborhoods and improve our health and well-being.
As the city announced its Urban Tree Initiative to plant 100,000 trees, TNC was already working to further the local knowledge about what trees should be planted as part of the Right Tree, in the Right Place motto. We convened tree experts from across the state to participate in a project we called Climate Ready Trees. This effort evaluates trees on their ability to not just survive but thrive in our changing climate. Thanks to the help of these experts, we now have a list of the types of trees we should be planting at our homes, businesses, streets and parks, as each have their own unique site conditions that dictate what kind of tree is right for the space.
We also launched our own tree-planting campaign to support the city’s canopy goal. In March we had over 130 local volunteers and community partners plant more than 60 trees in neighborhoods that have little to no vegetation. As they grow, and are supplemented by other trees, these trees could help improve the quality of life for residents and visitors of the neighborhood. But we won’t stop at a single event; we have two more planned for this year and more to come in 2020.
While providing shade to reduce heat is an obvious benefit of trees, they also provide a host of health and wellness benefits. Research shows spending time with trees reduces stress and people’s moods improve when exposed to nature. Trees also help improve the air we breathe by trapping pollution. Trees improve the economic vitality of shopping districts, and the value of our homes. Trees also improve neighborhood safety, increasing the social ties among neighbors building social cohesion, and so much more.
Here in Albuquerque we’ve got room to grow our tree canopy, and it’s all hands on deck! We hope that you value trees as much as we do and will consider planting a tree in your yard as part of the city’s 100,000 Urban Trees Initiative. You can also help us plant trees around Albuquerque by volunteering at one of TNC’s urban program tree planting events. To learn more about our work and make sure we capture your tree planting efforts, please visit nature.org/abq.