Trees have a positive impact on the environmental, social, and economic aspects of our world. They are a part of our everyday lives, and no matter how hard we try, we can never escape their presence. They improve the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. They lower air temperatures in the scalding Texas summers we endure, making things a bit more bearable, and they lower greenhouse emissions. Trees are the providers of shade on a sunny day and the barrier that protects us from the cold in winter. They are home to a multitude of species and a resource to humans in ways we take for granted.
How We Protect Trees Through Ordinances
In 1997, the City of San Antonio established an official Tree Preservation Ordinance. The goals of the Landscaping and Tree Preservation Ordinance are to enhance the aesthetic environment, to provide health benefits to our community, and to continue to provide elements essential to establishing and maintaining a strong ecosystem.
In 2010, City Council unanimously agreed to double the mitigation fees to encourage property owners to leave trees in the ground. The City Council also voted to implement a program that would increase the tree canopy from 38% to 40% which meant planting 454,600 new trees. This was based on recommendations from the “Urban Ecosystem Analysis – San Antonio”, an American Forest report. Tree canopy goals outlined in the report would help the City meet its stated environmental and quality of life goals, including federal and local clean air and water regulations.
Many Texas municipalities established Tree Ordinances decades ago to maintain, preserve, and add to the existing tree population, which have proven positive environmental, social, and economic impacts. Currently, there are approximately 50 Texas cities with local tree preservation ordinances, including Abilene, Austin, Dallas, Helotes, Houston, Rockwall, Rowlett, San Antonio, and San Marcos.
Read the City of San Antonio Tree Ordinance here.
What’s Happening Now
The Texas Legislature is currently voting on 20 items during its special session. One of the items still pending includes revoking local municipalities’ right to enforce local city tree ordinances.
The constitutionality of municipal tree ordinances was originally addressed in Senate Bill SB 782. Recent opposition of local tree ordinances in Texas assert that property owners’ rights are being violated, contending that it is unconstitutional to enforce tree ordinances on private property, both commercial and residential. They also propose restricting local municipalities from enforcing tree preservation mitigation or mitigation fees.
Trees have a positive impact
- Improve air quality
- Lower air temperature
- Reduce solar radiation
- Reduce surface temperatures of buildings
- Mitigate urban heat island effect
- Lower greenhouse gas emissions
- Remove pollution from the atmosphere
- Reduce stormwater runoff
- Reduce soil erosion
- Improve water quality
- Provide shade in spring and summer
- Serve as wind barriers in the winter
- Promote walkability
- Promote socialization in communities
- Provide aesthetic value
- Provide habitats for many species
- Communities with trees report lower crime rates/rates of vandalism
- People in communities with trees have lower stress levels
- Reduce energy consumption, thus lowering utility bills
- Increase property resale values
- Increase property occupancy rates
- Lower employee absenteeism rates
- Lead to increase productivity
How You Can Help
While each individual cannot cast a personal vote, everyone has the ability to get involved. The internet is the first place to go. Using the Texas Legislature online website, you can gather all the information you will need including identifying who your representative is and how to reach them. With this information, you can call or email your local representative if you are in support or opposition of local municipalities having the right to enforce Tree Ordinance. By contacting them and voicing your opinion, you can help them to represent you to the best of their ability. Regardless of your stance on the tree ordinance, stay tuned to what is happening in your city.
To urge your representative to leave the ordinance as it is, download an example template letter here.
For those outside of Texas, stay updated on news in your local area. To find your representative, click here.