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Taking a Closer Look

Green Enhances Growth

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What’s big, green, and disappearing? In many communities the answer is trees. New development, old age, careless cutting, gypsy moths, utility companies, highway departments, and other culprits are all combining to slowly strip our communities of trees.

For the most part people care about trees. As a result, tree preservation and planting have become hot issues in communities across the U.S. and Canada. Hundreds of places, both big and small, have established urban greening and street tree planting programs. For example, Lakeland, Florida, has been planting over one thousand trees per year since 1990. A Houston, Texas, based nonprofit, “Trees for Houston,” has used private donations and corporate funding to plant tens of thousands of street trees throughout the sprawling city. Dozens of other big cities have done the same. Likewise the National Arbor Day Foundation and American Forest’s “Global ReLeaf” program have helped hundreds of small towns start tree planting programs.

While the simple act of planting trees can have a profound long-range impact on a community and its inhabitants, until relatively recently the idea of protecting existing trees through local tree preservation ordinances was rare. As recently as 1984, the University of Pennsylvania could identify only one hundred communities nationwide with tree protection laws. But today, tree protection ordinances are sprouting up all over the country. In California and Florida alone almost two hundred communities now have city tree ordinances. Nor are they confined to big urban states. New laws can now be found in virtually every state from Mississippi to Missouri. …

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photo of Ed McMahonEd McMahon is one of the country’s most incisive analysts of planning and land use issues and trends. He holds the Charles Fraser Chair on Sustainable Development and is a Senior Resident Fellow at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC. McMahon is a frequent speaker at conferences on planning and land development.

Over the past 21 years, we’ve been pleased to have published more than two dozen articles by McMahon in the Planning Commissioners Journal, and now on

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