Gordon for caufc2Post by guest blogger Gordon Mann, a consulting arborist with 35 years of municipal tree management and an expert of tree risk management. Gordon has served a leading role at many community greening organization and is currently President of the American Society of Consulting Arborists’ Board and is on the board of the California Urban Forests Council. He is passionate about the role of trees in creating stronger communities.

“Trees aren’t just nice to have—they’re a necessity.” If every city official and citizen truly understood the vast range of benefits and value that trees provide, they’d all be saying this when faced with the decision of whether to cut down trees—or the budget to maintain them.

Unfortunately, too few people are saying that. If trees and other greenery are planted at all, they rarely receive the care needed to keep them healthy, vibrant and growing. This is especially true in tough economic times, when short-sighted cost-saving choices are often made. Unfortunately, those short-term decisions translate into long-lasting damage to one of our communities’ best and most cost-efficient investments.

Trees are in fact a vital and basic part of community infrastructure. They cool our cities, clean the air we breathe, slow down cars and make our neighborhoods safer. They also increase the value of our homes and businesses. Any asset that valuable to a community shouldn’t be treated as a nicety, but rather as a necessity—one that must be invested in and carefully managed.

So, how should a community and its property owners manage their valuable trees and green spaces? Two simple lessons can be learned from how we manage another kind of green asset: money!

Arbutus unedo_mature formFirst, when it comes to investing in stocks or other financial assets, long-term patience and discipline pay off. Quickly selling something might produce a fast return, but nothing near what would have been gained had it been allowed to grow and mature over time. The same is true of trees. The larger its canopy, the greater a tree’s value is to its owner. One hundred small trees don’t even come close to providing the benefits of a single, very large and mature tree.

Second, pay careful attention to who’s managing your assets and how—whether they’re in a bank or in the hands of a trusted advisor. When it comes to trees on your own property, certified, professional arborists should always be consulted. They will be able to advise you on the proper placement, care and management of your trees, saving you from making costly mistakes.

And when it comes to public greenery, your local government should have a management plan. If you’re not sure whether yours has one, you can contact the forestry or parks department and suggest a couple of resources:

  • CALFIRE grants can fund expert assistance for your city in their development of an urban forest management program.
  • The California Urban Forests Council also has a toolkit available to help with the creation of an urban forest management plan. The site also has links to other great resources.

6091099431_a4aa4ec980_zYou might think that only the management of your personal assets matters, but knowing how your city is managing public assets is important, too. Public trees and green spaces, after all, are in part responsible for making your home or business more valuable, your streets safer, and the air you breathe cleaner.

I encourage you not to keep these investment tips secret, but rather to share them far and wide. One of the beautiful things about trees is that they don’t allow their owners to be selfish in sharing their benefits. If your neighbor commits to keeping his tree healthier, your whole block will benefit and you too will end up wealthier.