Colorado Springs lays out framework for urban forest management

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COLORADO — Colorado Springs is tucked under a canopy of around 300,000 trees. City forestry said the collective filtration of the trees saves the city around $100 million every year in air filtration.

“You have increased property values, you have storm water retention to the tune of about 9 million dollars a year,” said Dennis Will, City Forester for Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.

The city said this living infrastructure is valued at raking in $1 billion in economic value for the city. That includes annual benefits of roughly $100 million in air filtration, $900,000 in stormwater retention, and $2 million in carbon sequestration.

But the beauty of this tree canopy comes with the need for a lot of care. Since the urban forest covers areas along streets and trails in the city, trimming branches that could fall on cars or homes is important.

“We maintain trees that need to be pruned, that need to be removed or planted, or prepared for insect disease hazards,” said Will.

The Urban Forest Management Plan lays the framework for the next 20 years. The goal is to keep trees rooted and healthy while growing the city’s canopy.

City foresters have a lot of ground to cover. With the number of trees in the city, the plan shows forestry is working with a budget of more than $6 million, shy of what it should be and around half the staff needed.

“The city forestry department has a very large backlog of deferred maintenance. You should touch your trees in some way, which usually means plant, prune, treat for insects or remove every 5 to 7 years,” Will said. “That’s difficult for any community to manage especially when you’re talking about an urban canopy like ours.”

On top of pruning trees, keeping them healthy and disease free, and removing dead or falling trees, the city is also busy planting new ones. They hope to plant another 400 trees in the urban forest this Spring.

There’s a way you can get involved too! For Colorado Springs’ 150th birthday, there’s a goal of planting 18,071 trees by July. People can help this effort by buying a tree from a local nursery, planting it at home, and adding it to the city’s official COS 150 tree tracker.

The challenge started back in 2019, so if you’ve planted a tree since then it’s not too late to add it to the city’s official tree count. The website also offers important tree care tips and ideas for what type of tree to plant-based on your location. It’s estimated that ash trees account for 9-20% of public trees in Colorado Springs’ neighborhoods.

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