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Understanding And Valuing Benicia’s Urban Forest

Before the gold rush in 1850, Benicia’s hills and flats made for a rather barren landscape. In 1855, humorist George H. Derby, an army Lieutenant, is reported to have liked the people of Benicia, but not the place, as it was not yet paradise due to the lack of trees. The dearth of trees is also well documented through old photographs and written records. Our landscape has changed dramatically with the planting of many trees over the past 160 years. In 2004, the City began taking a serious look at the care and maintenance of our trees. An ad-hoc Tree Committee was formed and tasked with updating the existing tree ordinance. The ordinance attempted to strike a balance between private property rights and promoting a healthy urban forest, and regulate the cutting and pruning of trees on private property as well as public land.

Why do we need a healthy urban forest? Most of us plant trees to beautify our homes, for privacy and/or shade, but trees are important in other ways. They act as natural air filters by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in their biomass to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The City’s Climate Action Plan calls for planting trees to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10% below 2000 levels by the year 2020.

Read the entire article written by Jeanne Steinmann in the June 2012 Edition of the Benicia Magazine by clicking here.