Amy Smith reports on the attempts by some state legislators to end cities' rights to preserve trees within their boundaries [“Then There's This: Out on a Limb
,” News, April 5]. She briefly mentions a couple of consequences of such a move: replacement trees require lots of water, and the "next generation los[es] the beauty and value of historic trees.” True enough, but there are many concrete, financial reasons for tree preservation.
Trees provide infrastructure benefits that benefit all citizens. Further, the benefits of one 20-foot, mature tree far outweigh the benefits of 10 2-foot trees or five 4-foot trees. The lost benefits include absorption of storm runoff, air quality improvements (and thus less federal mandates to limit vehicular emissions), reduced maintenance intervals of pavement and structures, and reduced energy usage through reduction of the heat island effect. These services must be provided by cities regardless. When trees are lost, mechanical replacements become necessary. These replacements will then require maintenance, repair, and replacement, whereas mature, healthy trees will only increase in value over time.
Intangible benefits also lead to financial rewards for cities that preserve trees. Many Austinites cite trees as one reason they choose to live here. Research shows that quality trees increase property values, so we might expect tax revenues to decrease along with tree cover. People who live among trees report being happier and healthier, and crime tends to be lower in their neighborhoods. In short, trees improve people's quality of life, again increasing the value of property with trees.
Each generation deserves the chance to appreciate and enjoy these amazing plants, but preservation ordinances have little to do with such esoteric goals. The small price a property owner pays when required to preserve a tree is more than compensated for by the financial benefits, both individually and collectively. Property rights concerns are understandable, and perhaps some cities will always choose not to protect privately owned trees. But those of us who pass ordinances do so for good reasons. We would appreciate it if the party of "small government" and "local control" would keep its nose out of our affairs.