The sky is green — at least it should be

Experts talk about the importance of a lush tree canopy

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published April 10, 2018

 Park trails in West Bloomfield highlight Michigan’s lush tree canopy.

Park trails in West Bloomfield highlight Michigan’s lush tree canopy.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Tree planting events can be found in various communities, typically sponsored by municipalities and nonprofit organizations.

Tree planting events can be found in various communities, typically sponsored by municipalities and nonprofit organizations.

Shutterstock image

METRO DETROIT — Considering the fact that our state boasts nearly 600 species of trees, it’s safe to say the Great Lakes State could just as easily carry the moniker the Great Trees State.

And while some trees can survive as long as 4,000 years, most reach maturation and begin to die off after the 80-year mark, according to MichiganForest.com. So that beautiful canopy that was planted during the area’s suburban building boom in the early 1970s could soon start dying off.

That’s something we should probably plan for, according to Bloomfield Hills City Commissioner Sarah McClure. During her race for re-election last fall, the eight-year incumbent noted that a tree preservation and planting program was one of her priorities.

“We are a distinctive community, with rolling hills and larger lots, and we need to continue to not only protect what we have, but enhance it,” she said during a candidate forum in October 2017. “(I support) our beautification and tree planting programs.”

Among the efforts in the Bloomfield area to keep the canopy lush is a tree planting day at the E.L. Johnson Nature Center April 21 hosted by ReLeaf Michigan, a nonprofit tree advocacy organization. To help the effort, which will provide trees to be planted along Bloomfield Township’s portion of the Rouge River ecosystem, visit the Bloomfield Hills Schools website at bloomfield.org. 

McClure also had a hand several years ago in penning the city’s woodlands ordinance, which is aimed at preventing clear-cutting on new developments in the city. Commercial and residential property owners have different sets of guidelines that dictate how many healthy trees can be removed from a lot in a certain period of time and when replacement trees would need to be planted to offset the loss.

Sterling Heights City Planner Chris McLeod said he oversees a similar ordinance, supported by a vigorous planting effort through Green Macomb, a partnership between Macomb County, the Blue Water Conservation District and other groups to boost the tree canopy in southern Macomb County.

“There have been a number of studies that show a tree canopy can provide for higher residential property values and higher retail values too. Honestly, people tend to shop in a more treed environment. People are more likely to buy a house on a tree-lined street than a non-tree-lined street, and they’ll pay more for it,” McLeod said. 

He added that tree canopies are major helpers to the environment too, perhaps not surprisingly. Not only do the leaves on trees swap out carbon dioxide for essential oxygen to clean the air, they also act as something of an umbrella during major rain events, which prevents an overload for storm drains.

In May, Sterling Heights will offer residents a hefty discount on street trees — that price hasn’t been determined just yet, McLeod said — and throughout the season, the city will continue to plant trees in rights of way. 

People around the state can also get trees to plant in their community from the Arbor Day Foundation. Membership to the foundation includes a subscription to Arbor Day, a bimonthly publication, and other literature on tree planting and care.

 “White pine trees or white flowering dogwoods will add beauty to your home throughout the year,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation, in a prepared statement. “Dogwoods are known for their showy spring flowers and red berries that attract songbirds during winter. White pine trees are fast-growing landscape trees that will break heavy winds, making them an ideal addition to any yard.”

To learn about the Arbor Day Foundation, visit arborday.org. 

To find out if a ReLeaf Michigan planting event is coming to a neighborhood in your community, visit www.releafmichigan.org.