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What are NYC's Street Trees Worth? A cool $122 million
Emily Gertz, 21 Apr 07

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From Worldchanging NYC:

For the first time, the Parks and Recreation Department has quantified the value of the city's trees in economic terms. And it's huge: for every dollar spent on a street tree in the city -- the Parks study counted 592,130 -- New York receives $5.60 worth of benefits, including shade, improved air quality by absorbing pollutants, and impact on local property values.

According to Parks comissioner Adrian Benape, interviewed by reporter David K. Randall in yesterday's edition of The New York Times, this information on the incredible value of the city's street trees (the study did not include trees on parkland or private property) will give the Parks Department concrete evidence to bring to the city's Office of Budget and Management when it argues for more ecomomic support for the city's urban forest. “We plan on using these values as a baseline to say that this is what we have now, and argue for additional funds to plant more trees,” Benape told the Times, calling it a "'happy coincidence' that the tree census puts a dollar value on a tree’s environmental benefits at the same time that the city is trying to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions."

It's encouraging to see ecosystems services valuation comes to city government. Not familiar with ecosystem services -- the value of natural resources like trees, clean air and water, healthy soil, wetlands, and so forth contribute to our economy, values typically rendered invisible by traditional economic calculations? Check out this series of articles that takes you through it by Worldchanging global contributors Hassan Massum, David Zaks and Chad Monfreda.

New York's study used a program called Stratum to crunch all the complex factors that play into calculating a street tree's value, developed by researchers at the University of California at Davis and the United States Forest Service. The Times article does a good job describing how the city developed the data it fed into Stratum.

Image: From the Parks Department's Greening East Harlem: An Urban Forestry Management Plan

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I hear New Yorkers complain about the leaves. They don't want the leaves falling on their precious cars. Or the pollen. Luckily there are a number of small-leaf species which are perfect.

New Yorkers are also especially hard on the lawns in parks. This has become a big problem recently because people have taken up football and soccer and they're both extremely hard on turf. Huge swaths of Central Park that used to be green are now brown patches. I think the best solution is to put big beach rocks in the middle of any field that's big enough to play football in.

Posted by: rob on 23 Apr 07



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