Could fear be the next threat to Atlanta's tree canopy?

7:53 PM, Jun 17, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- The first threat to the city's canopy was growth.  Farmers, then houses and office buildings.  Recently it has been the weather.  There were years of drought, now heavy wind and rain. 

"I think that's kind of the charm of where we live. You still get that city vibe but there's so many trees that it makes me feel like I can get away," said Lanie Snell, a hiker enjoying the overlook at Kennesaw National Battlefield.

But the next threat may be fear.  The fear that one of the trees that make the city so special, could be the same tree that crushes their house or kills a loved one.

Even Snell admits she recently had several trees in her yard cut.

In 2001, the non-profit American Forests looked at satellite images to learn about metro Atlanta's tree canopy.  What it noticed was a significant decline in the number of trees blanketing the region.

"Since the 60's, we've lost 40% of our canopy, maybe more," said Peter Jenkins, President of Georgia's Arborist Association.

The US Department of Agriculture also surveys the area's tree canopy and puts the loss at closer to 50%.

Jenkins says it's tragic, considering much of that loss has come since Atlanta created its tree ordinance. The rules have become stricter over the years, and today the city says about 22% of its permit applications are denied.

But that still leaves 1700 dead or dying trees the city says it permits to be cut down every year.

American Forests say the loss in canopy has led to a 33% increase in stormwater runoff and 11 million more pounds of pollutants lingering in the air.

"There's a long list of reasons why trees are good," said Jenkins.

We're sure to be hearing more about them.  The city has commissioned its first study on the tree canopy to better understand how trees impact the community and assist with planning and development.

They hope to get initial results from their study in August, the same time American Forests plans to return to study the impact trees in Atlanta can have on schools.

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