"Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. (KIB) is deeply concerned about our city’s continuing loss of trees. According to IUPUI research, between 1962 and 1993, Indianapolis lost 25 percent of its tree cover. And, amongst all trees we’re losing, those designated as “high quality” forests are disappearing at the rate of 30 acres per year, according to Indy Parks Land Stewardship research. One such high quality forest is the land north of 38th Street owned by Crown Hill Cemetery. As the community considers proposed development here, it’s important to understand the ecological benefits this land provides.
Working with Rebecca W. Dolan, Ph.D., Butler University Department of Biological Sciences, KIB used an inventory of roughly one-half of the property’s trees (2,700 trees with trunks 9 inches wide or larger) and I-Tree, a peer-reviewed software research tool developed by the USDA, to understand this forest’s benefits. Annually, these 2,700 trees intercept 5 million gallons of storm water, 7,000 pounds of air pollutants and sequester 1 million pounds of carbon. The analysis reports the value of these services to taxpayers is more than $400,000 each year; the replacement value of the trees: $3.9 million. (See www.kibi.org for a summary of this research.)
Perhaps the most startling realization is the effort it would take to replace these trees. At the minimum, it would take KIB, its partners and volunteers six years to plant an equivalent number of “trunk inches” through our NeighborWoods program. Six years!
This community values trees. Major local companies, prominent local foundations and philanthropists and hundreds of individual donors and volunteers are supporting NeighborWoods. This program, announced by Mayor Peterson and Sen. Lugar in 2006, is a partnership with the City of Indianapolis to plant 100,000 trees by 2016. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful already has requests from civic and neighborhood groups to plant 2,000 NeighborWoods trees in 2007.
We need to keep planting trees; but Indianapolis also needs policies that better protect the trees we have, and policies that ensure the replacement of trees we lose. Under existing ordinances, not a single tree needs to be replaced should any development occur on any property. At least the developer of the Crown Hill property in initial plans seems to acknowledge the importance of trees and wetlands.
This debate wouldn’t be taking place, though, if stronger protections of trees and natural spaces were in place. Current policies have not kept pace with our community’s growing appreciation for its natural environment. Mayor Peterson has appointed an independent tree board to provide policy recommendations, hopefully by yearend. Surely, working with our entire community, from environmentalists to developers, we can encourage better public policy to protect our valuable natural assets.
Board Chairman, KIB