Getting It Done

More trees

Increasing the city's tree canopy by 2030 was one verdant objective identified at the ACPP community charrette – an objective now in need of an action plan. Trees are a "carbon sink" that absorbs CO2; when they shade buildings, they also reduce the energy needed for air conditioning.

Travis County currently has a tree canopy (as measured aerially by leafy coverage of land) of about 33%, according to city staffer Matt Hollon. The goal of increasing that by 50% translates to adding 16.5% more canopy. For simplicity's sake, call that 20% in 20 years – an increase of 1% annually. (Trees grow slowly, however, so significant canopy and shading is equally slow to materialize.) According to Mary Ann Neely, president of TreeFolks, a local nonprofit that promotes tree planting, achieving that goal will require a comprehensive program for new plantings, tree preservation, replantings, and care/watering/maintenance.

Currently the city has at least three separate tree programs in different departments, each with different objectives. For starters, the city could combine those into one unified program that sets maximum carbon reduction as a top-line criteria. (Staff from seven different departments already are working on synchronized standards through a Tree Oversight Committee.) Then community groups such as TreeFolks, Keep Austin Beautiful, the Austin Parks Founda­tion, Austin Independent School District, and many others would need to get planting. They'd need enthusiastic support from the development community and private-sector funding partners, too.

Everyone loves the idea of more trees. But as with all the objectives identified, accomplishing it will require long-range project management – so, whose job is that?

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