There’s a common saying: money doesn’t grow on trees. It’s funny, because according to research in numerous cities, trees are actually an incredible economic boon.
Urban forestry is generating cash for cities big time. Tens of millions of dollars are saved by trees in cities like Atlanta, Portland, and Milwaukee. These trees save money by slashing cooling bills in the summer, reduces how much grass cities need to care for, and even improves the health of the people living in those cities by sucking up particulate air pollution.
These cities have been hard at work for decades planting trees, like pines, palms, oaks, and olives. It goes to show that our urban centers aren’t just here for humans to build their colossal structures, but for nature to as well.
Tampa, Florida is one of the United States’ greatest studies in tree planting. The Parks and Recreation team in Tampa has made trees a central part of their public works programs. Kathy Beck, head of the city’s Parks and Recreation department, calls it “green meets gray.” Tampa relies on science and observation to see where the city needs more trees, how many trees to plant, and what kinds should be planted.
Trees in Tampa are estimated to be saving the city almost $35 million a year in energy savings, prevention of soil erosion, improvement of the public health, and reduced costs of stormwater management.
Cities are taking note of Tampa’s successes. In Portland, Oregon, a robust Parks and Recreation Urban Forestry Division manages and regulates over 236,000 street trees and 1.2 million park trees. But for the most part, very few cities are employing people with deep expertise in urban forestry.