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Dallas City Council Approves Plan To Prioritize Trees In Fight Against Climate Change

Three people stand in a park underneath a line of trees. You can see large city buildings just behind the trees.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA
Residents visit Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas, on June 23, 2020.

On Wednesday, Dallas City Council voted for a plan that will help create a healthy urban forest, protect and increase Dallas' existing tree canopy and educate the community on the instrumental role trees play in the area.

The Dallas City Council voted to adopt a plan that would make planting and preserving trees a priority in the city. All 15 members voted in favor.

The Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP) offers Dallas city officials a roadmap to increase the tree canopy in the city from its current 32% to 37%. The city has almost 15 million trees, but state environmental leaders say it’s not enough if Dallas wants to combat the changing climate.

It’s not a shocker, but the Earth is getting warmer. Dallas has experienced rising temperatures. And most of the city is concrete, which doesn’t mitigate heat. Trees would provide shade and help mitigate some of these issues.

“Trees are a vital part of the solution in addressing environmental issues and challenges facing our great city,” Bobby B. Lyle, Chair, Texas Trees Foundation Board of Trustees said at a press conference last week.

Trees are a vital part of the solution in addressing environmental issues and challenges facing our great city.
Bobby Lyle

Mayor Eric Johnson said the plan will help Dallas strive to be a top city for families and a leader in responding to climate change.

“This plan, which recognizes the importance of trees and green space to our vibrant city, can help us achieve both and will ensure that all of our communities can thrive in healthy, sustainable environments for years to come," said Johnson, who created the first-ever standalone Dallas City Council committee devoted to environment and sustainability issues.

TTF and members of Dallas’ Comprehensive Environmental and Climate Action Plan task force (CECAP) presented the final 146-page version of the UFMP to city council members Omar Narvaez and Chad West. This plan had been in the works for a few years.

Its main goals include: creating a healthy and resilient urban forest through proper planning, protecting existing tree canopy in Dallas to reduce temperatures and improve air quality, increasing tree canopy by 2040, and engaging the community about the instrumental role trees play in Dallas.

“This collaborative effort represents a major step forward for our City. It emphasizes the strategic importance of our urban forest and provides guidance for our community as the City of Dallas sets the standards and takes the lead in urban forestry management in North Texas,” Lyle said.

It will be placed in front of Dallas City Council for consideration for adoption on June 9. City leaders will have a chance to decide whether or not they're committed to making planting and preserving trees a priority.

“This plan is not sitting on a shelf collecting dust,” Omar Narvaez, city council member who serves as Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee said.

Narvaez said while many city plans often don't get executed he will ensure this one will be different.

At the press conference, the TTF made a case for why trees will have a positive effect locally. TTF believes strongly that trees benefit the social, economic, and environmental health of people who live around them.

Urban forestry is the management of trees and forest resources in and around urban community ecosystems.

dad kid fishing.jpeg
Keren Carrión
A father and son sit by the pond at Kidd Springs Recreation Center in Oak Cliff, Dallas, to fish, on July 29, 2020.

Examples of urban forests include urban parks, street trees, landscaped boulevards, gardens, greenways, river corridors, wetlands and nature preserves. They’re basically any greenery, woody or vegetation, in urban and suburban settings.

If approved, this would be the city’s first-ever plan that focuses on increasing tree canopy and implementing care preservation to existing trees in the area.

Currently the city of Dallas has a number of “tree-related” policies like the National Environmental Protection Act, Texas Park & Wildlife Ordinance and Dallas Article X. Many of them have been in the books since the 1980s with a mission and focus on “protection and preservation of trees.”

The UFMP is an highly-revised expansion of Article X, an existing policy, “to allow the city’s reforestation fund to be used to put trees into private homes with a priority system that looks at equity and looking at low income areas.”

The plan lays out 14 fine-detailed recommendations to ensure that Dallas’s urban forest has actionable guiding principles during the plan development process.

Some of the recommendations are: completing a tree inventory, creating a Storm Response and Recovery Plan, and creating a plan to equitably plant trees cross Dallas. The Urban Forest Master Plan was first presented to city council in February. Now, it’s up to the city council to act.

Read the Urban Forest Master Plan here. This post will be updated once city council votes.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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