Trees for the People and the Planet: Protect them and plant more!

Posted 4/10/24

To the editor,

Trees are our neighbors, our relatives, our elder caretakers, and deeply rooted in our communities. When we take care of trees, trees take care of people and entire ecosystems. …

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Trees for the People and the Planet: Protect them and plant more!


To the editor,

Trees are our neighbors, our relatives, our elder caretakers, and deeply rooted in our communities. When we take care of trees, trees take care of people and entire ecosystems. The benefits of trees are numerous and not well known to all. Trees are beautiful. They provide shade and habitat to all living things. They help reduce energy use and lower utility bills. They elevate property values and help create aesthetically appealing cities and towns. They’re a front line against the increasing heat blanket we are all experiencing; capturing carbon, absorbing air pollution, enhancing cooling, and releasing life sustaining oxygen needed for survival. Trees filter polluted water, aid in storm water runoff, help mitigate flooding, and protect against wind and driving rain. Much of a tree’s value is hidden from view. Like the soil it enriches, or the root systems it creates and uses to help young trees survive and grow. Humans and all living things are interconnected to trees. So with all the benefits trees provide - why are so many “healthy” trees (not ones in danger of falling) being cut down and removed from our communities? Some personal observations…

Human ignorance on the vital role trees play to the health and well-being of all living things.

Removal of trees for self-serving purposes (messy leaf clean up, don’t like raking, too many pine cones, pine needles or acorns, clogged gutters, felled branches and twigs, growing more grass, squirrels, bird poop, improve the view, etc…)

Property developers and land owners clear cutting lots. Take a look at any new development. What you won’t see are mature trees. Maybe a couple of smallish trees planted later, but gone are any mature trees living on the property prior to development. Granted some trees must be sacrificed to allow a new home or building to be safely constructed. What’s most alarming is that mature and healthy trees far away from a new structure are being clear cut in the process. This needless practice of clearing cutting an entire property lot is very aggressive. Drive along the East Bay on route 114 and observe the clear cutting practice for yourself. It’s happening everywhere and in every neighborhood. Just look around and you will see this vast destruction of our trees.

Trees are a commodity to be cut and sold. Companies know this and are in business to make money. It takes many decades for trees to reach maturity. It only takes a few minutes to cut down and remove them. Count up the number of tree stumps in your neighborhood during your next bike ride or walk and draw your own conclusions based on your own observations.

Lack of knowledge and expertise on how to properly prune a tree. Cutting back and pruning a tree takes care and experience and should be done much more often. Even when a tree shows signs of decay, it can be pruned back in a healthy way and not just cut down and removed by default.

Some solutions to consider…

Avoid needless tree removals and plant more and larger native trees now. It takes many decades for trees to reach maturity. The sooner we plant more trees the better off our communities will be. Visit uri.edu/rinativeplants for information on RI native trees. Central Nurseries of RI has a vast selection of large native trees and can help with ideal placement, planting and care.

Tree removals also increases the potential for invasive species to grow. A walk down the East Bay bike path will reveal the massive destruction invasive vines are having on our trees. These vines strangle and disfigure trees, impeding growth and leading to premature death. Cutting these vines to the ground can help save the tree or at least prolong its life. Check with a licensed arborist or local tree warden for information on how best to handle these invasive species.

Prune trees instead of cutting them down to the ground. Contact a licensed arborist for information on how to properly prune a tree. A well pruned tree maintains so many important benefits and is a real asset for all to enjoy.

Consider joining or forming citizen-led tree stewardship groups. Tree planting and maintenance programs are mostly organized and conducted by volunteer citizens. Assisting local town conservation groups and committees can also be a great way to partner up and help grow tree canopies throughout the East Bay.

Stop clear cutting lots when building new housing or commercial developments. Town officials and abutting neighbors should be made aware of development plans that include clear cutting. Developers, property owners, future building owners, town building/conservation officials and abutting neighbors should walk properties together and identify trees that should “not” be cut down “before” any cutting starts. Trees do necessary things to keep our towns and planet habitable. It’s in all of our best interests to let trees continue doing their work. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. John Campanini (long time director of the RI Tree Council) summed things up very well saying, “We need a rational approach to protection that respects our trees”. It really does comes down to respect for trees and for the tremendous benefits they serve when they remain alive, thriving and upright in the ground. Let’s take more individual and collective action to protect and plant more trees. Let’s do it now.


George Voutes

Bristol, RI

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