Today is Arbor Day and we are acknowledging how trees are a critically important resource for Chester County and planet earth. Planting a tree is an incredibly simple, yet impactful way to improve the environment and reduce greenhouse gases.
One of the six goals of Landscapes3, the county’s comprehensive plan, focuses on protecting natural resources. These include trees and woodlands which provide shade, capture stormwater runoff, filter pollutants, mitigate urban heat islands, reduce sound and light pollution, remove carbon from the atmosphere, provide wildlife habitat, beautify communities, and increase property values. These add up to quite the list of essential benefits, proving just how important trees and woodlands truly are for our environment.
Fortunately, Chester County is preserving significant wooded areas through the county’s open space program, local municipal initiatives, and conservancy efforts. In fact, this past Wednesday on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Chester County Commissioners planted a “Tree of Hope” to honor the fight against COVID-19 (see the video). For those looking to help out, French & Pickering has an all ages COVID-SAFE volunteer opportunity for families who would like to help weed or mulch the tree saplings that were planted at their Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve last spring.
The importance of Chester County’s woods were highlighted in the county’s 2018 Return on Environment report, which demonstrated that air pollution removal from the county’s trees provided an annual benefit of $13.5-million in services that otherwise would have to be paid for. Trees also sequester 1,684,940 tons of carbon, which would cost $120-million to mitigate, and new growth of trees each year captures 64,000 tons of carbon sequestration, which equates to an annual benefit of $4.6-million. The Arbor Day Foundation recently launched their Time for Trees initiative, which plans to plant 100-million trees in forests and communities around the globe, and inspire 5-million tree planters to help carry out the mission by their 150th anniversary in 2022.
Currently, there are about 135,000 acres of woods in Chester County, accounting for over a quarter of our total land area. Of these woods, 42% are on preserved land, meaning that the trees will be protected into the future. Over the past five years, more than 4,000 acres of woodlands have been permanently preserved as open space. Many of these preserved areas remain open to the public for exercise and recreational use, as long as safe social distancing measures are in place. Additionally, The Arbor Day Foundation has an article featuring six ways to celebrate Arbor Day while social distancing.
Protecting the county’s woodlands, urban tree canopy, and forest groves remains a priority for protecting the county’s environment. Learn more about the Chester County Planning Commission’s environmental initiatives.