Value of trees considered

AS we approach summer, caring for and protecting trees has come to the forefront of our attention.

Summer is the most important time to care for trees, especially as our annual summer drought approaches. Trees provide so much to society in tangible, emotional and spiritual benefits that our communities would be less livable without them.

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Modern society is now realizing the many benefits that trees provide for humans beyond the traditional uses of wood products. Storm water management, increased property value and a place for children to play are just a few of the benefits trees offer.

Trees provide so much and ask for so little in return.

A mature tree can have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000, according to the U.S. Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers.

Ninety-eight per cent of realtors in the United States believe that mature trees have a "strong or moderate impact" on the salability of homes listed for more than $250,000, and 83 per cent believe the same for homes listed under $150,000 (source: Arbor National Mortgage-USA).

Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand, a French writer, politician and diplomat in the late 1700s and early 1800s, said, "Forests precede civilizations and deserts follow them."

Walter Schauberger, the son of famous forester Viktor Schauberger, made calculations in relation to a European tree species and found that during the tree's 100-year life it had accomplished the following tasks:

- The tree had fixed about 2,500 kilograms of carbon from the atmosphere.

- It had converted 9,100 kg of carbon dioxide and 3,700 kg of water.

- The tree had stored up to 23-million kilogram-calories (a calorific value equivalent to 3,500 kg of coal).

- It had made 6,600 kg of oxygen, which is sufficient for one person to breathe for 20 years.

- The tree had drawn from its roots up into its crown (against the force of gravity) and evaporated into the atmosphere at least 2,500 tonnes of water. Every tree continually supplied and recharges the atmosphere with water in this manner, and when cut down, that amount of water is lost (source: www. livingtreeeducationalfoundation.org).

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen.

Trees are important protectors of water quality by controlling and filtering rainfall runoff through their leaves and roots, a process that also prevents erosion. During rainfall some rain stays on the tree's leaves and it may evaporate into the atmosphere or slowly drip to the ground or be used by the tree. The more rain the tree uses in this manner, the less water there is to run off. Tree leaves also reduce rain impact on the soil, which protects soil from compaction, also preventing erosion. Tree roots absorb water from the soil, making the soil drier and able to store more rainwater. And tree roots hold the soil in place, reducing the movement of sediment and erosion.

Beyond those scientific facts, the spiritual and historical value of trees has been valued by civilizations across the world. In 1990, 270 scientific leaders from 83 nations signed a petition declaring: "We understand that what is regarded as sacred is more likely to be treated with care and respect. Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred."

As the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser put it: "The relationship between tree and man must become religious. Only when you love the tree like yourself will you survive."

First Nations in the Pacific Northwest have long cherished our native trees. Totem poles and other artistic carvings made by First Nations artists are renowned worldwide.

With all of those facts and so many more in mind, I was shocked and appalled to learn that the District of West Vancouver cut down ancient and sacred trees during road building work near Eagle Lake in the Upper Lands area. According to the article by Brent Richter in the North Shore News ("West Van Fells Old Growth In Error," Friday, June 22), the district blames the mistake on staff reductions. How ridiculous. And it's ridiculous and disgusting for Coun. Trish Panz to have to apologize for someone else's mistake when she is one of the North Shore's best and truest environmental champions who fought to save the Eagle Lake grove of ancient trees.

One of the trees was reportedly 700 years old (alive when Columbus came to North America). Such a tree supplied oxygen that we have all breathed. It seems to me that whoever is ultimately responsible for road building operations in the district should have checked out the road survey to ensure proper layout and tree protection. And that person should be fined under the district's tree-cutting bylaw and then fired for professional misconduct and incompetence. Maybe these overpaid bureaucrats should get out of their offices and do the work we pay them for. Mother Earth is sad today because many of her ancient and sacred trees lie dead on the forest floor.

stmajor@shaw.ca.

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