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Somerville Urban forest 2018

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A summary of the catastrophic tree loss in Somerville in 2018

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Somerville Urban forest 2018

  1. 1. Somerville’s Urban Forest, 2018 Chris Dwan, Friends of the Urban Forest (somfuf@gmail.com) Sunday, Sept 2: Central and Willoughby Streets, looking East along the rail bed
  2. 2. 2018: A catastrophe for trees Trees Removed Average Diameter Total Diameter Removed Cedar Street 15 15” 220” Beacon Street 65 9” 576” Somerville Ave 17 10” 172” SHS Campus 71 10” 686” SHS Back Woods 644 5” 3004” GLX ~1,000 Unknown Unknown Total 1,812 4,658” • The trees removed in 2018 amount to ten years of planting at 2018 rates • It will be decades before new trees can offer shade, screening from road noise and dirt, temperature control, and the other benefits of mature trees.
  3. 3. We underspend on tree care Year Budget Spent Unspent FY13 $50,000 $15,581 ($34,419) FY14 $50,000 $28,964 ($21,036) FY15 $50,000 $46,208 ($3,792) FY16 $175,000 $40,550 ($134,450) FY17 $175,000 $75,892 ($99,108) FY18* $175,000 $82,196 ($92,804) * YTD figure from the proposed FY19 budget as of June 2018 • Somerville’s Budget line item 529005 (“Care of trees”) has been underspent each of the last six fiscal years • Dead and dying trees line the streets of the city, many standing dead for years.
  4. 4. Other City Investment • One full-time arborist was hired in 2016 • Proposed additional forestry staffer: • Requested mid-term 2018 and declined. Was not among the “critical” hires proposed by the administration) • This position was not included in FY19 budget • Currently re-requested as a standalone mid-term hire. • RFP currently open (Sept, 2018) for consulting support to update the 2009 tree inventory, and to develop an urban forestry strategy. • Starting in Fall 2017, the city allocated capital funds ($150k per year) to tree planting. This has bought two plantings per year, approximately 120 trees in each of Spring and Fall. • Staff have obtained external grant funding as a supplement and added trees along the Mystic Watershed.
  5. 5. Beacon Street • City staff commissioned a clear cut of Beacon Street, contradicting the message delivered at community meetings. • Only one tree was called out for protection. It died during construction. • October, 2017: 37 trees were removed in a single day with no community notification. • No tree permits were issued, and no tree hearings were held until 2018.
  6. 6. Somerville High School • More than 70 trees were removed from the high school campus on Highland. • Public process, was followed including community meetings. • Plantings planned for 2020 and beyond.
  7. 7. High School: Back Woods • The wooded hillside behind the high school was clear cut to make way for a retaining wall and an artificial turf athletic field. • City staff surveyed the pre-existing trees prior to the clear-cut • 644 trees were removed, totaling 3,004 inches of trunk diameter
  8. 8. The Green Line Extension GLX project estimates that 1,000 trees have been removed in the process of “grubbing” the tracks prior to construction. This removal was indiscriminate, without consideration for size or species. No records on the removal were considered “responsive” to a freedom of information act request of MassDOT and MBTA. Based on overhead map comparisons of the area cleared for GLX vs. the high school, the estimate likely underrepresents the total.
  9. 9. The Urban Forestry Committee • The committee, comprised of city staff and residents was formally re-instated by Board of Aldermen in October, 2017 • To date it has not been advertised or seated, though it was immediately used in grant applications, and to support applications for civic awards. Multiple orders by the board of aldermen to seat the committee have been ignored
  10. 10. This is a generational loss • Trees grow an inch of diameter in two to five years. • The 2” diameter saplings planted in 2018 will not provide substantial shade, cooling, air quality, or other benefits for 15 to 30 years (2033 – 2068). • Large, mature trees are irreplaceable within our lifetimes. • Experience suggests that when a city chooses to remove its mature trees, they are gone forever.
  11. 11. What should be done? • Engage the community: Advertise and seat the Urban Forestry Committee • Develop a well organized and public practice of tree care using funds already allocated. • Set a citywide policy to remain net- neutral with regard to tree biomass across all construction projects, including those funded by the state. • Measure and report citywide statistics of tree removal and planting. • Develop a “community tree” program to celebrate and protect the city’s oldest and grandest trees, whether on public or private land.
  12. 12. Thank you for your attention Chris Dwan, Friends of the Urban Forest (somfuf@gmail.com)

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