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Why do trees in cities need laws to keep them safe?

Firstly, and most essentially, is to recognize that all trees are living beings. They are not simply a physical addition to the inert buildings in which people live and work and to roads/sidewalks that are perceived as essential for city life.

When those whom we empower to make decisions about how to create cities are focused on ‘concrete’ and drainage structures before all else, then trees become an afterthought and for many, even a luxury. They are not understood as essential to the health and well-being of those who live amongst these hard structures.

Our human consciousness has, over the centuries, come to see trees as separate from the living world that we are dependent upon. In more recent decades we have created laws to protect animals/pets within cities. We treasure our relationship with them, and their presence enhances our lives. So too, do trees within cities have a significant and desirable impact and thus enacting laws to protect and prioritize them throughout their long lives is essential for human health and pleasure.

A city is an intense experience on all levels which is why we include trees in urban design. Trees remind us of the natural systems from whence we originate. We know that their living presence will moderate the consequences of city life so they become a place of calm instead, offering to residents multiple, natural health benefits. All trees are important, moreover essential for city residents crowded into the shared living that cities provide. The benefits of trees are free─and continue to be free for generations to come after us. Trees in a city setting are gift givers like no other. Trees ask little of us; a healthy site for their roots to find air and water, being planted in groups so the soil remains cool and livable, trunk protection, and an annual survey to recognize stress such as drought or pest problems.

However, the principal reason that all trees need to be fully protected by law is to enable those tasked with taking care of these living entities to have the means to deal with individuals who do not value the importance of trees.

The present laws are gestures only and so are rarely enforceable. This leaves those who work to help others understand the importance of trees without a voice with which to counter people who wish to cut down trees for whatever self-interested reason or who refuse to plant and take care of them. We know that city life is a balancing act of freedoms and responsibilities. Trees need the 'voice' of strong and clear laws for their well-being; and then we all benefit from their beauty, now and in the future.

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