Tree canopy gets green thumbs up

By Rachael DeNale
Bowie, MD (July 30, 2009)- A recent study has found the City of Bowie has better tree coverage than officials had estimated. In the meantime, the city has begun a forest management plan to help make the tree canopy even larger. Roughly 46 percent of the land in the City of Bowie is covered by urban tree canopy, according to a report completed in May by the University of Vermont and commissioned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in conjunction with the City of Bowie.

BGE utility clearing work, which is ongoing in Bowie and will remove about 15,000 trees to improve the city’s electrical reliability, is expected to reduce the canopy by about 1 percent. The removal is concentrated in residential areas, where the canopy will be reduced by 20 percent. The study was completed before the work began.
Urban canopy is the layer of leaves, branches and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above. Gary Allen, head of Bowie’s Environmental Advisory Committee, said a tree canopy tends to cool an area, reduce home energy use, provide greater access for wildlife and improve air quality. “The actual canopy coverage is actually quite good for a suburban area in Maryland,” Allen said. “It’s among the best of communities our size.”
The City of Bowie’s Existing and Possible Urban Tree Canopy report, which used imagery taken in summer 2007 and was released this spring, found that the city’s canopy is significantly higher than 2001 estimates of 30 percent. The 2007 report “gave a truer picture of the tree canopy,” said Joe Meinert, Bowie’s director of the city planning department. “We were amazed that it was documented at 46 percent.”
The study, done in 2008, was carried out by the Spatial Analysis Laboratory of the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Northern Research Station.
The city has been working on several projects, including tree plantings and inventories, as part of Bowie’s environmental action plan, Meinert said. The city’s fiscal 2009 mid-year budget approved a tree conservation plan for forest mitigation banking- restoring or creating forests to meet state reforestation requirements- at Church Road Park and Gallant Fox Lane that have already begun to be implemented. “From the environmental standpoint, it’s a good thing to do,” Meinert said.
The city plans to establish an urban tree canopy goal and establish an urban forest management plan during 2010, Mayor Fred Robinson said in an e-mail. The city has a contract with a vendor to plant 4,000 trees on eight acres of Church Road Park for more than $56,000, with twice as many trees slated for planting during the next several years, Robinson said. Bowie spent more than $21,000 during the previous fiscal year to plant more than 300 mature trees in a forestation project at Gallant Fox Lane, and plans to plant 200 new street trees each year, Robinson said.
The city also plans to encourage residents to plant more trees on their own property, possibly by offering vouchers, Meinert said. The city council also is investigating using other city-owned property as tree planting sites, Robinson said. “We will be working toward the construction of a comprehensive guide for all these efforts over the next year.”
BGE reimburses residents up to $100 for each of certain types of trees it removes from a property. The City Environmental Advisory Committee recommended that Bowie seek at least $850,000 from BGE- in addition to the residential reimbursement program- as compensation for trees lost within the city, Allen said.
The city included a request for $800,000 in compensation for tree mitigation in a letter to the Maryland Public Service Commission, Allen said. The commission has not yet acted on the request. BGE forester Chad Devine was unavailable for comment.
Related Resources:
Maryland Gazette- Tree canopy gets green thumbs up