“Our goal of planting 4.6 million new native trees is the equivalent of two new trees for every Houstonian,” said Councilmember David Robinson. “As a resilient and sustainable city, we need to plant the seeds today for future generations to fully reap the benefits.”
From left to right: Loren Hopkins (City of Houston Health Dept.), Chris Sadler (Harris County Precinct Two), Council Member Robert Gallegos, Anne Olson, Council Member David Robinson, Deborah January-Bevers (Houston Wilderness), Marissa Aho (City of Houston Resiliency Office)
Representatives from the City of Houston, the newly formed Tree Strategy Implementation Group (TSIG), led by Houston Wilderness, Buffalo Bayou Partnership and approximately 100 volunteer tree-planters from Bank of Texas, Shell Oil, Dow Chemical, ALJ Lindsey and interested Houstonians participated in the event commemorating Texas Arbor Day at Buffalo Bend Nature Park.
“Trees improve our ability to combat many of the health, equity, climate, and built environment challenges that we face,” said Marissa Aho, Chief Resilience Officer. “These include helping to cool and shade in the face of urban and extreme heat, improving air quality and capturing carbon, supporting rich biodiversity, improving health and wellbeing, and enhancing the built environment.”
Houston’s Climate Action Plan focused on how the City’s tree planting goal will help restore, protect and enhance our natural ability to capture and store carbon to help mitigate climate change.
The area selected for the first 600 trees includes communities that experience twice the rate of cardiac arrest and six times the amount to asthma attacks compared to the rest of the city.
“This planting of native trees with the highest capacity to reap environmental benefits provides the opportunity to proactively address both climate change and its implications for health”, said Dr. Loren Hopkins, Chief Environmental Science Officer for the Houston Health Department. “Air pollutants absorbed by trees include nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulate matter, all pollutants associated with increased risk of cardiac arrest and asthma attacks in Houston.”
Planting 4.6 million new native trees in 10 years will need every Houstonian to play a role, but some local leaders have volunteered to begin coordinating implementation of this ambitious target with public and private partners.
“The Tree Strategy Implementation Group, comprised of all the major large-scale native tree planters in the region, came together in early 2020 to create a strategy to accomplish the planting of 4.6 million native trees by 2030,” said Deborah January-Bevers, President of Houston Wilderness. “Based on data analyzed by TSIG members to be most beneficial to the region, 40% of the native 4.6 million trees are targeted for Urban Heat Island areas with tree species with large leaf canopies, and 60% of the native trees are targeted for native ‘Super Trees’ species, such as the Live Oak, American Elm and Sycamore, Tuliptree, Maple and Ash trees and Loblolly Pine, that provide high levels of air pollution reduction, water absorption, erosion control and carbon sequestration.”
Resilient Houston also sets a target to conserve 24% of undeveloped regional land as natural spaces by 2040.
“We look forward to continuing to facilitate progress on the three key goals under the eight-county Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan, which mirrors goals under the Resilient Houston Plan,” said Graciela Gilardoni, Houston Wilderness Board Member. “The City of Houston, Harris County and other regional partners recognize that the urban forest is a critical part of the resilience goals to benefit residents now and in generations to come.”
The Arbor Day tree planting was hosted by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership at their Buffalo Bend Nature Park.
“Buffalo Bayou Partnership worked with Harris County Precinct Two and other governmental agencies to acquire and develop this abandoned industrial property,” said Anne Olson, President of Buffalo Bayou Partnership, “And the 600 native Super Trees planted on November 6th are part of the transformation taking place on this riparian green space in Houston’s East End.”