By Tom Cavanaugh, San Juan Capistrano

The city of San Juan Capistrano and many of its residents place little value on the benefits of trees and do nothing to prevent loss of trees and damage to trees from excessive, unnecessary, and unskilled trimming. Every year, trees are trimmed excessively and poorly, leaving them little of what they offer.

Trees absorb harmful sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide from the air and release oxygen. One tree can produce a day’s supply of oxygen for four people. Yearly, trees can store 13 pounds of carbon; an acre would equal 2.6 tons of stored carbon.

Trees increase comfort and decrease utility bills by reducing air temperature when leaves evaporate water and by blocking sunlight. Shading large areas of asphalt, concrete and buildings minimizes the urban heat island effect; the radiation of heat, day and night, results in warmer temperatures. Urban areas are often nine degrees warmer than areas with tree cover. Ideally, 50 percent of total paved surfaces should be shaded.

The sheltered side of trees help settle out and trap up to 75 percent of dust, pollen and smoke from the air.

Trees absorb and block noise, up to as much as 40 percent, something good in increasingly dense neighborhoods and with increasing numbers of cars on the road.

Trees provide habitat and food for birds and other animals. Birds in our city no longer have safe havens or nesting places in trees reduced to nothing more than hat racks. This city once called itself a bird sanctuary—I guess no more.

Trees define space, add color, add beauty to the urban landscape and increase real estate values.

International Society of Arboriculture guidelines dictate less than 25% of crown, branch removal—seemingly not the case in our city. A city employee stated if it doesn’t kill the tree, just trim away; a very poor, harmful policy. Why does the city disregard the benefits of trees for its citizens and the environment? Please contact the city officials and ask that they not ignore the facts and no longer view trees as liabilities but as assets.

About The Author Capo Dispatch

comments (1)

  • Dear Tom,

    Thank you for a great letter describing our need for trees and the poor management of our existing trees. There is no excuse for the way our trees are being managed.

    A city with well-planned and well-managed green infrastructure becomes more resilient, sustainable, and equitable in terms of nutrition and food security, poverty alleviation, livelihood improvement, climate change mitigation and adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and ecosystem conservation. Throughout their lifetime, trees can thus provide a benefits package worth two to three times more than the investment made in planting and caring for them.

    The 2018 IPCC Global Warming Special Report indicates that if global temperature rises by 1.5°C, humans will face unprecedented climate-related risks and weather events. Unfortunately, one of the main findings is that we are on track for a 3-4°C temperature rise. It’s the final call, the most extensive warning thus far on the risks of rising global temperatures. Staying below 1.5°C will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

    If we are going to leave our children a livable environment, we must not only correctly maintain existing tree growth; we must begin a program of reforestation of our residential and commercial open space. We also need to give strong consideration to the afforestation of surrounding free space; both are essential for future generations!

    I urge everyone to re-read Tom’s letter above, then act. Tell city management to make it a priority to trim our trees correctly. Then get involved with one of the growing numbers of tree planting organizations like Tree People or Orange County Interfaith Coalition for the Environment.

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