Charlotte arborists, city officials and tree lovers celebrated the city's efforts to preserve its tree canopy at the annual TreesCharlotte Big Tree Summit Tuesday. But a question loomed: Will it be enough?
Charlotte city workers and volunteers planted more than 19,000 trees last year, pruned 1,300 and banded 5,600 to prevent damage by cankerworms. The city also has acquired 224 acres of land in recent years to preserve trees. Erin Oliverio, the city's Tree Canopy Program Manager, calls those "tree successes."
But more than 600 trees were cut down and hundreds were lost during big storms. In a presentation, Oliverio showed a slide showing trees lost over a wide area of the city from Hurricanes Florence and Michael and winter storm Diego.
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"Florence was the long storm that we had where it moved in and just sat over us. We had over 500 service requests in that time frame," she said.
A 2012 study found that trees covered around 47 percent of the city's land area, about the same as 2008. The city has a goal of boosting that to 50 percent by 2050. But that could be difficult, given the rapid pace at which developers are cutting trees in Charlotte right now, said Dave Cable, the co-founder of TreesCharlotte, which hosted the tree Summit.
"So when the city is under intense development pressure, and you've got a tree-save requirement of 15 percent, you turn the crank on development, you're going to get this downward pressure on the canopy. So my sense is we're going to see a diminution in that number in a significant way. But we won't know until we see it," Cable said.
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The city's latest study of the tree canopy is nearing completion. It's expected to be unveiled to the city council in the next few weeks.
City of Charlotte 2o17 Urban Forest Master Plan, http://charlottenc.gov/treeplan