City working on modeling of citywide tree cover

City working on modeling of citywide tree cover

August 2nd, 2009 by Cliff Hightower in News

Chattanooga wants to take a closer look at trees across the city and figure out how to boost tree cover across town as it presses further on becoming a "greener" city.

City Forester Gene Hyde said plans are to apply for a Lyndhurst Foundation grant to hire a consultant and also buy software that specifically would track how much canopy the city has overhead.

"We have canopy goals," Mr. Hyde said.

Those goals include 40 percent canopy citywide and at least 17 percent of the downtown area covered in trees, he said. To get to those goals, software tracking would be used to show how much is needed and also how much is lost as any major developments come into the city, he said.

BY THE NUMBERS

* 40: Percentage of canopy for cities that the nonprofit group American Forests recommends

* 39.5: Estimated percentage of canopy for Chattanooga

* 15: Recommended percentage of canopy for downtown areas

* 7: Estimated percentage of downtown canopy in Chattanooga

Source: City of Chattanooga

The City Council voted almost two weeks ago to allow Mr. Hyde to pursue the $52,825 grant. It is one facet of the city's Green Initiative that the council approved almost five months ago.

Lyndhurst Foundation President Benic M. Clark III said the board of directors will look at the city's proposal on Aug. 17.

"We haven't made a decision on that yet," he said.

Mr. Hyde said the study would be vital for the city and could lead to more federal funding. The city already has conducted unscientific studies of the urban canopy by taking aerial photos and "guesstimating" the percentage of trees in a specific area, he said.

The proposed study, using state-of-the-art software, would be much more precise and be able to show whether the guesses were correct, he said.

In January, the Chattanooga Green Committee unveiled a 47-point plan with goals that include increasing the amount of tree cover over Chattanooga, said Jim Frierson, a member of the Chattanooga Green Committee.

He said they wanted some areas that could be quantified and the software would enable the committee to do just that by measuring carbon dioxide. Other quantifiable aspects in the report include reducing vehicle mileage and utility savings, he said.

"They are 47 things you can wrap your hands around," he said.

Since the start of the Green Committee, there are now 17 action teams working on trying to get the green initiatives done, he said.

Karen Hundt, director of the city's Planning and Design Studio and a member of the Chattanooga Green Committee, said tree cover is even more important as an energy bill makes its way through Congress. The study could help quantify tree canopy and carbon dioxide emissions.

"That could be extremely beneficial," she said.