The Buffalo Tree Survey

(This column was first published in the July 24, 2000 Buffalo News.)

Street trees are easy to justify on the basis of beauty alone. Driving down my suburban road, I pass through a green archway with many of the trees from opposite sides of the street meeting overhead. Each time I make that trip I am refreshed. And my street is like hundreds of others locally, my experience widely shared. We are blessed with trees.

I might not appreciate this nearly as much but for the trees where I grew up in Rochester. Our home was on an equally shaded street but those trees, unlike today's maples, sycamores and locusts, were American elms, big vase-shaped trees with gracefully drooping branches. But when I returned from service in World War II, those trees were gone, victims of Dutch elm disease. It was a blighted area.

Trees have many important benefits in addition to their esthetics. Among them:

Sensitive to these contributions of trees to the quality of life, a number of agencies have developed a strategy to enhance what has been well-designated Buffalo's "urban forest." The first step in that strategy will be to inventory the city's trees. Over the next year and a half every street tree is to be evaluated and entered in a data base.

Once gathered that information will provide the city's parks and public works departments with best targets for their limited resources, with savings through the ability to address several nearby problems instead of having to crisscross the city to address one problem at a time and with a basis for choosing appropriate tree species to plant. This last is important because many insects attack only single species like the elm-leaf beetle that has beset Buffalo's replacement elms. When such trees are planted some distance apart, the insects' ability to infect another tree is significantly reduced.

An important meeting that will provide much information about the survey and follow-up activities of the Buffalo Tree Inventory Project Team will be at the Buffalo Museum of Science from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on this Thursday, July 27.

As with its pesticide sunshine ordinance, the City of Buffalo is again taking an environmental leadership role. Because this project can equally well serve this entire region, I urge other communities to be represented at this meeting.

Finally, I applaud the U. S. Department of Agriculture Urban Resources Partnership of Buffalo, its Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program, the Buffalo Department of Public Works and the Baird Foundation for their fiscal support of this project as well as those other agencies involved: Ecology and Environment, the Buffalo Parks Department and Buffalo's Olmsted Parks Conservancy.-- Gerry Rising