The time has come to take a stand for the trees.
Not just because a tree is a tree, but because of the history and purpose of trees in Jackson Hole.
Town’s earliest settlers recognized how trees block wind and offer cooling shade when they began planting them more than a century ago. Along the way, as neighborhoods developed in the valley, trees were added adjacent to dwellings, along fence lines and streets.
It’s only in recent years that mature landscaping has seemed to get the ax in the name of progress, with building envelopes being pushed to the edges of residential lots and large box-shaped homes replacing sprawling green yards.
Absent any subdivision rules, on residential property Jackson homeowners can do whatever they like with their trees. But should they?
Urban trees capture rainfall to slow stormwater runoff, cool air temperatures to counteract acres of hot asphalt and reduce energy use, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Research has shown that trees dampen noise and uplift mood as well as absorb carbon dioxide.
Sacramento, the City of Trees, has used foliage for three decades to reduce energy consumption and cool the city. Temperatures in the shade can be up to 20 degrees cooler, according to the Sacramento Shade group, which has planted 600,000 trees since 1990.
To fight global warming, Republicans in Congress pushed the “trillion tree” goal by 2050, a target taken up by the World Wildlife Fund, Birdlife International and the Wildlife Conservation Society. TrillionTrees.org says the venture is “committed to a world where tree cover is expanding, not shrinking.”
The town of Jackson would do well to adopt the same vision as a way to protect livability, community character and the power of this place.
Everyone mourns a different stump, from the cottonwoods and willows cut last fall at St. John’s Episcopal Church to the freshly razed corner of Deloney and Gros Ventre in the Gill Addition this summer.
As big box homes go up and trees come down, we are experiencing a rapid change in the look and feel of neighborhoods in the valley.
Some subdivisions are doing it right. In Cottonwood Park the removal of any live tree with at least a 6-inch diameter trunk is prohibited without permission of the Cottonwood Design Committee. Those covenants were written in 1984.
Let’s all be like Dr. Seuss’s fictional character, the Lorax, and speak for the trees.