Restoring Reno’s tree canopy
City Council Member Naomi Duerr and the Urban Forestry Commission are on a mission to bolster Reno’s disappearing tree canopy through a new program called ReLeaf Reno. The program, which launched on April 29, will fund the planting and maintenance of new trees in parks and public areas around the City of Reno, and will encourage local residents to take personal responsibility for trees that grow on and around their properties.
“We’re going to be basically be making a call to action for citizens to adopt a tree,” Duerr said.
According to Duerr, a new tree inventory and management plan to be released by the Urban Forestry commission in May shows that Reno’s urban tree canopy has decreased since the time of the last inventory in 1998. Reasons for tree losses include drought, budget cuts during the recession, disease, bugs and old age.
“I think we’ve found that we’ve lost about five to 10 percent of our canopy over 18 years,” Duerr said. “That’s on public space. On private space, we’ve lost more.”
To combat tree losses, ReLeaf Reno will provide information to the public on how to care for trees, and recognize members of the community who are already taking care of city trees. Duerr has donated $10,000 from her council donation fund toward the ReLeaf Reno project, and hopes to match that money with contributions from other donors.
“In just one week since we’ve had the soft launch of this, we’ve gotten almost $10,000 in private contributions,” Duerr said. “My goal, and the Urban Forestry Commission’s goal, is to raise about $100,000. It wouldn’t just be used to buy trees, but also to install the trees—to get the hole dug, the tree in place, and to maintain it for its first year.”
Potential benefits of urban trees are many. Trees provide shade, reducing air temperature by blocking sunlight. They act as wind-breaks and help buffer noise. Trees improve air quality by absorbing CO2 and other gases, and releasing oxygen. They provide habitat for wildlife and have social benefits as well.
Recently, planning experts from the Urban Land Institute made recommendations for how to improve Reno’s Virginia Street corridor.
“One of their big recommendations, especially along Virginia Street, was trees, trees, trees,” Duerr said. “They wanted to see trees downtown, midtown, up by the University, across from the Convention Center—everywhere. They know that the presence of trees increases the value of property by about 15 percent.”
Although Reno’s high desert landscape might not naturally have so many trees, Duerr believes that the city needs them—especially for the cooling effect that they can provide in areas dominated by concrete and asphalt.
“Houses, roads weren’t here naturally,” Duerr said. “We came, and we’ve added a lot of elements to this basin. We’ve added an airport, we’ve added hundreds of miles of roads. We’ve added thousands of buildings. We have about 100,000 homes. None of that was here naturally either. It’s basically mitigation effect. If you’re going to plant concrete, you need to also plant trees.”