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A New Plan Shows How Badly Dallas Needs to Protect Its Trees

The Dallas Urban Forest Master Plan is here after a couple years in the works.
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Dallas has almost 15 million trees, with a tree canopy covering about 32 percent of the city. It’s not enough. Not in a hot climate that’s getting hotter, in a city defined mostly by concrete, where air pollution is a perennial problem and extreme weather events threaten what trees we do have.

That’s why the city’s urban forestan easy way to refer to all the trees in Dallas, from the thickets of the Great Trinity Forest to the live oak near your apartment buildingis so important. And it’s why the Texas Trees Foundation developed its Dallas Urban Forest Master Plan, which the nonprofit has just released and will formally present to the City Council next week.

The city has been big on plans lately. There is a new plan to fight crime. Just last week, the city adopted a plan intended to spur economic development in southern Dallas. These are ambitious plans intended to address the problems facing Dallas: inequality, crime, poverty, crumbling infrastructure. What do trees have to do with taking on these enormous issues?

They’ve got everything to do with it, according to the Texas Trees Foundation, which has been shouting this for years. “An abundant and healthy urban forest has been shown to reduce city temperatures, improve air quality, manage stormwater, positively impact human health, and mitigate the effects of climate change; serving as an important tool in helping to address many of the challenges facing Dallas today,” reads the new plan.

Among the detailed recommendations here (it’s a big plan), the Texas Trees Foundation advocates for:

  • Creating a comprehensive inventory of trees in parks and city-owned right-of-way.
  • Consolidating or otherwise centralizing the urban forestry efforts that as of now fall under the purview of four different city departments: Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Sustainable Development and Construction, and Dallas Water Utilities.
  • Developing a storm response plan that the city could follow after severe weather events (like this winter’s freeze or the June 2019 wind storm) uproot trees.

There’s a lot more to it. And like most of the plans mentioned above, it’s more of a starting point than anything. The Texas Trees Foundation is already doing a lot of valuable work making Dallas greener, most recently with its Cool Schools program. But adopting this plan would mark a fundamental change in how the city does business, making trees a part of its policy.

Read the Urban Forest Master Plan here. We’ll have more around the time council is briefed.

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