Santa Fe’s trees face risk amid climate change concerns

February 17, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — More trees on Santa Fe-owned land might have to be pruned or removed, which officials in New Mexico’s capital city said is a result of climate change.

The city Parks and Recreation Department conducted an audit last year of the city’s dead and dying trees that department director John Munoz said will be removed or pruned only as a last resort, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported last week.

Crews removed a handful of dead cottonwoods outside Santa Fe City Hall earlier this month. The weight of some branches caused the trees to become a “public safety issue,” Munoz said.

“This is collateral damage caused by climate change and in reality one of the daunting issues of our lifetime because climate change is changing our ecosystem,” Munoz said. “The U.S. Forest Service states we will see significant tree loss by 2027, so it’s a race against time.”

Mayor Alan Webber said he’s worried about the health of the trees on the Santa Fe Plaza, which serves as a gathering point for tourists. The city is considering ways to save the trees, he said.

Disease and pests, such as the European elm scale, spruce beetles and Janet’s looper caterpillar, are among the many factors affecting city trees, Munoz said. The city utilizes “natural and organic methods to protect our trees and vegetation,” he said.

“It takes extra time and extra resource but definitely it is a reasonable approach,” Munoz said. “It’s heartbreaking that disease and climate change impact the health of our trees and limit their life cycle.”

The removal of trees requires a “thorough and mindful process” as well as approvals from the Land Use Department, Munoz said.

Every tree removed on city properties will be replaced, Munoz said. Parks and recreation has proposed replacing the 52 trees around City Hall with oaks or redbuds.

“We will be proposing modernization of our irrigation systems, which is sorely needed for proper water but also for the efficient use of water,” Munoz said. “Another enhancement I am requesting is a forester position and a full-time and dedicated trees crew. And begin a focused approach on how to shield what are the longest-living organisms on our planet . from the effects of climate change and soil compaction.”


Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com

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