A critical American metropolis is grappling with a crisis as one of its key resources confronts the threat of destruction

Cleveland, renowned for its beautiful tree cover, is facing a swift decline in one of its vital treasures — the trees that make up this canopy.

Efforts are being made to increase the tree population in “Forest City,” with a focus on improving climate resilience and addressing environmental justice issues, as reported by Inside Climate News.

What’s happening?

The vicinity of Ohio’s second-largest city has been linked with forests since the 19th century when Alexis de Tocqueville referred to the shores of Lake Erie as a “primeval forest.”

Regrettably, the city’s once abundant tree population has been diminishing in recent years.

“Our county’s trees face numerous threats, including development and natural aging,” stated Kristen Hall, the executive director of the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District, speaking to Inside Climate News.

The decline in trees is also attributed to diseases and pests. With the Earth’s increasing temperatures due to the use of polluting energy sources like coal, gas, and oil, invasive species might more easily establish themselves in the region, contributing to tree loss, as reported by Inside Climate News.

Why is it important to save Cleveland’s trees?

Trees in urban areas offer numerous advantages. Firstly, they provide shade, helping to maintain cooler temperatures, a crucial factor given the ongoing climate warming. Additionally, trees contribute to reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, serving as carbon storage.

According to The Nature Conservancy, optimizing the management of trees, plants, and soil solely in the U.S. could sequester carbon equal to removing 57 million cars from the road.

Moreover, the presence of greenery has positive effects on mental well-being. A study conducted by The Nature Conservancy demonstrated a correlation between spending time in natural settings, such as wooded parks or forests, and a decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression.

What’s being done to save Cleveland’s trees?

Cleveland aims to enhance its Climate Action Plan by focusing on the conservation and revival of the city’s tree population. The 2020 progress report laid out an objective to reach a 30% tree canopy by 2040. This necessitates annual tree planting and the establishment of over 26,000 new trees, while also safeguarding existing ones. However, a key challenge lies in ensuring that these initiatives uphold the values of environmental justice.

Mayor Justin Bibb emphasizes the importance of uplifting Black and brown communities to enable them to access the economic opportunities they rightfully deserve. He envisions Cleveland becoming the “Forest City” once more by intensifying tree planting efforts across the urban landscape.

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