What is Arbor Day?

Trees in Spokane park

Image credit: City of Spokane

Arbor Day is a day designated to celebrate the role of trees in the world and to encourage people to plant and care for them. In the United States, this day will be recognized on April 26th, 2019; however, in Washington State, it was celebrated on April 10th, 2019, the second Wednesday of the month. This difference in days of recognition of trees is not what matters; the importance comes with knowledge about the integral role of trees, as life and to life, and the willingness of global citizens to take action.

Action in Spokane: Urban Forestry Ordinance

One important issue to be aware of as Arbor Day approaches is Councilmember Lori Kinnear’s Urban Forestry Ordinance. Councilmember Kinnear and her team have been working on creating two ordinances that will benefit urban forestry efforts in Spokane. The vote for the first ordinance will take place at the council meeting on April 22, 2019. This ordinance will amend Article V of Chapter 12.02 in the Spokane Municipal Code, the city’s urban forestry program. This ordinance, among other amendments, includes a commitment to expand land surface covered by canopy in the city to 30% by 2030, which is around a 7% increase. Another important point made in the amendment is that the Urban Forestry Plan must be updated “at least once every five years”, which will be beneficial for keeping on track with goals.

The importance of planting trees to combat climate change?

In an article published on April 10, 2019 in the Spokesman Review, Rebecca White wrote that, “[Councilmember Kinnear] said the 30 percent tree coverage by 2030 also lines up with the city’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 2030”. The push for canopy expansion in Spokane and the importance of action for Arbor day are essential for meeting carbon reduction goals. Trees are not only aesthetically pleasing and great indicators of the season, but also crucial in the fight against climate change. They not only act as carbon sinks, absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere and storing it, but also use carbon dioxide in photosynthesis, taking in this problematic gas and generating oxygen. Another benefit of trees in regards to climate change, according to Canopy, is that well-shaded neighborhoods will remain cooler and require lower amounts of energy for air cooling. In the article, “The Widespread Climate Benefit of Trees” by Climate Central, it is stated that “urban trees reduce U.S. energy bills by over $5 billion each year”. In the same Climate Central article it says that as of 2019 the power of the trees in Spokane is equivalent to removing 19.8 million tons of carbon dioxide, avoiding 2,777 million gallons of storm runoff, and absorbing 769 million pounds of air pollution.  These numbers are powerful because they represent the immense impact that trees have on reducing carbon in the atmosphere, countering negative human impact on the environment, and saving Spokane residents money.

What can YOU do?

A person planting a seedling

Photo credit: gardenmyths.com

It is essential in this time of climate crisis that we, as citizens, support people in government who are taking action for just change. Supporting Councilmember Kinnear’s Urban Forestry Ordinance is one way that Spokane residents can reduce their carbon footprint and make a positive change in the city center. Another way to be active this Arbor day is by visiting https://arborday.org/spokane and requesting a tree, free-of-charge, to plant on your private property. This neighborhood tree planting program is a unique opportunity for individual households to beautify their neighborhoods and help reduce the city’s air pollution. This program is available in March and September due to a partnership with the National Arbor Day Foundation. Over 2,000 trees have been planted in the Spokane community because of this program, and it is currently open for more requests. Make an impact this Spring by supporting urban forestry action, taking time to plant trees, and spreading awareness about their importance for climate action.