An umbrella of green

Leslie Berckes | Program Development and Innovation Director, Trees Forever

The Idea: Increase the DSM metro area’s tree canopy by 3 percent in the next 30 years.

It’s a big goal that will cool our cities and help alleviate flooding through green solutions a green way to become more resilient in the face of climate change. A resilient future in the face of climate change will require many solutions in Des Moines. One key piece of the puzzle is green infrastructure, and trees are the superheroes of the green world. Think of tree canopy like an umbrella. This tree canopy umbrella covers us and is what creates a sky full of green when you look up. The more and bigger trees we have, the more stormwater intercepted (think reduced flooding and better water quality), the more cool shade provided (think cooler cities and fewer negative health outcomes from heat), the more wind blocked (think warmer homes and buildings during cold winters), the more carbon sequestered (think about a more resilient climate with reduced carbon). Unfortunately, many of our metro cities are low on tree canopy.

Here are the current percentages of tree cover in each city: Ankeny, 9 percent; Clive, 23 percent; Des Moines, 29 percent; Johnston, 19 percent; West Des Moines, 23 percent; Urbandale, 18 percent; Waukee, 10 percent; and Windsor Heights, 31 percent.

To grow our tree canopy by 3 percent, for example, would mean that the city of Des Moines and area citizens need to plant 3,000-plus trees per year to reach this goal. And planting is just the start. All the planting in the world doesn’t mean anything unless there is a plan to care for those trees so that they reach large mature size. Seeds (acorns, if you will) of ideas are starting and deserve more attention and work. One thing we’re working on is a new program called Growing Futures to employ youth to plant and care for trees imagine the next generation of youth growing the next generation of trees. >