The potential for growing a community’s tree canopy is largely determined by land use, land ownership, and government policies.
Policies that promote trees and ordinances that address tree placement, maintenance, and removal are key to promoting a healthy tree canopy. The establishment of a Tree Commission demonstrates a community value to protect and enhance trees.
Communities can encourage a healthy tree environment through land use and development policies. For example, Low Impact Development is a stormwater management strategy that aims to mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff as close to the source as possible. Simulating natural processes that infiltrate stormwater to protect water quality; strategies can include bio-retention facilities, rain gardens, planted rooftops, permeable pavements, and other types of green infrastructure.
While trees can help reduce the amount of stormwater runoff through absorption, water management efforts are important to consider for tree health. Younger trees and seedlings can be washed away during heavy water events, and the root systems of mature trees can be compromised. Policies that promote vegetation along stream banks and in floodplains can result in a reduction of the velocity of floodwaters and lessen the erosive force of a flood event. Riparian areas and wetlands are especially valuable downstream of urbanized areas of development. Their natural functions can counteract the effects of concentrated stormwater runoff from pavement and buildings to protect water quality.