more precisely: The Case for a Tree Committee
Early in the summer of 2022, local friends asked me to provide expert testimony (their phrase, not mine) as an environmental geographer regarding a question of local governance. Although I always resist the "expert" label, I was pleased to be asked. As I thought about the topic, I was also pleasantly surprised at the number of ways in which my experience did qualify me to speak to the question at hand.
|Posing in the Amazon with a tree we|
would definitely not find in Bridgewater.
Photo: Cara Reed (2003)
It turns out that almost half of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts have tree committees, with varying kinds of authority, and Bridgewater itself used to have one. A major responsibility of a reconstituted committee -- and the impetus for this discussion -- would be to guide plantings on public property, especially those that are mandated as a condition of other land-use changes. That is, if another town board or committee authorizes some clearing of trees in town, this committee might be called upon to provide for compensatory plantings on town land.
As part of a regularly scheduled public meeting of our Town Council, several people addressed the question of whether to form the tree committee -- all of us in the affirmative. As an environmental geographer whose teaching and research has involve forest ecology and political ecology, forest soils, and forest hydrology, I spoke to the general benefits of trees and to the importance of choosing the correct trees for a particular situation. My friend Marilee Hunt -- who is our Town Clerk and has much deeper experience than I with town governance -- provided a rich history of our town's conscious promotion of trees.
July 2023 note: my favorite librarian follows the Strong Towns site and just shared a post by a municipal tree committee member in Canada, entitled An Inconvenient Tree. She makes a detailed case for increasing the planting and maintenance of public trees.
I started this blog post right after the public meeting in June, because I thought my friend's comments would be instructive for my students and other readers. A lot happened to distract me from completing this post, but I return in January 2023 for an unexpected reason: our words were apparently convincing, the Tree Committee was indeed formed, and I have now been asked to apply to serve on it. Even if my application is approved, however, I will eschew that "expert" label. I reserve that honorific for real experts like my late friend Dr. Alan Bolt.
I am at best a student of trees, but I am pleased and proud to serve.
I was approved, validated, certified, and sworn in, I look forward to faithfully executing the duties of the Tree Committee with my friends and neighbors.
|For the swearing in at Town Hall, I held my copy of It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown |
while wearing my Amazon, Earth's Breath necktie.