Pruning trees contributes to a more equitable community. Or, more accurately, pruning trees at no cost contributes to a more equitable, livable community.
How? We’ve learned that a major barrier to many households getting a street tree is the cost of maintaining the tree. Pruning can be very expensive, and it gets more expensive as the tree ages and grows if problems are not addressed early. Properly pruning a tree when young is an excellent investment and can delay or even prevent future expenses, making a tree more affordable. Pruning young trees at no cost by trained Friends of Trees volunteers is one important way to help get more trees into more neighborhoods, especially under-served, low-income communities which are often communities of color impacted by systemic disparities. That is exactly why Friends of Trees is focusing efforts on specifically those communities who will benefit the most.
Our pruning program also benefits youth through our educational partnerships. While we are pruning trees we are also training young people to prune. Through partnerships with organizations like Rosemary Anderson HS POIC, student interns in our pruning program earn an hourly stipend while building valuable job skills. Pruning skills can be developed and honed in preparation for becoming an ISA-certified arborist – a very solid living with excellent job security. Added bonus: Exposing young people to the benefits of trees and tree care contributes to a greater appreciation of trees and nature, helping to grow the next generation’s Tree Team.
Pruning = longer lived, healthier trees = healthier planet + people. The benefits of trees—oxygen creation, pollution and stormwater absorption, healthier humans (DYK that trees help combat cardiac and respiratory ailments and can even contribute to increased birthweights?), and so much more—increase exponentially as trees grow and age. And the earlier a tree is properly pruned, the greater the chance it will grow to a ripe old age benefitting neighborhoods and the planet for generations to come.
Pruning for structure (shape) and clearance (sidewalks and streets) is the primary way to steward and care for a tree post-establishment. Proper pruning contributes to the long-term health of the tree, while lack of pruning, or pruning incorrectly, will contribute to the premature demise of the tree. Pruning in the built environment (as opposed to a natural setting) is also key to preventing tree-related damage following inclement weather.
There’s another reason pruning young trees is better: It’s easier for the tree to recover from pruning when it’s young than it is when the tree is more mature (trees have to “recover” after any sort of pruning, good or bad, it’s just far more efficient for them to recover from careful “surgery” by a trained pruner as opposed to “natural” pruning by snow/ice + wind). When pruned, a tree immediately gets to work “sealing” the cut, working to close off the wound.
When pruning young trees, we have the opportunity to make a 5-cent cut today to prevent the need for a $100 cut 20 years down the road (or, so the saying kind of goes ;). Not only is it more cost-effective to properly prune young trees, the larger the pruning cut (because the limbs are larger), the longer it takes the tree to recover. A tree can quickly seal and move beyond a ¼” cut made with hand pruners, but it may takes years to recover from an 8” diameter cut made with a chainsaw (and it may never recover at all). BTW, trees don’t actually “heal,” they seal or compartmentalize and – once recovered – they then grow more vigorously.
With all the benefits of pruning it’s a good thing our pruning program is so popular with volunteers (100+ pruning volunteers every year!), since volunteer-power is the only way we’ll be able to prune 2,000 trees this season. Pruning is especially popular right now as it’s pretty pandemic-resistant: pruning is not a large group activity and it takes place 100% outdoors. In fact, it’s because of COVID that this will be the biggest pruning season yet, with a 40% increase in trees pruned over last season! BTW, we’ll prune any young street tree in our service area (6” diameter or smaller), not just the trees we plant – all at no cost (thanks in large part to our partners at City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services).
Pruning trees properly contributes to the health of the tree and to those who live under its canopy. We of course want the trees we plant to grow and thrive, and proper pruning when young is key to tree health, so pruning is an important part of our Neighborhood Trees program. Need more information? Visit our tree resources page for more information about tree care and the benefits of trees. Ready for a tree of your own? Get started here!
Photo: Youth interns learning to prune, part of our Rosemary Anderson High School/POIC partnership; August 2020.
Most people by now are fairly well attuned to the benefits of trees environmentally, socially, mentally, and more. However, less people are aware of how tree canopy is distributed among a city and its neighborhoods.
A trend across the country in large cities is that trees, and the benefits they bring, are distributed inequitably across neighborhoods based on race and income. Higher income neighborhoods with majority white residents have over 75% tree canopy coverage as compared to lower-income neighborhoods with around 15-30% canopy cover. These are large discrepancies that result in hotter environments, more air pollution, and factors contributing to respiratory conditions like asthma for children.
These trends are reality here in Portland: west Portland (excluding Forest Park) has about 75% canopy cover in most neighborhoods, while east Portland neighborhoods average about 15-30% canopy cover. Friends of Trees prioritizes planting street and yard trees in neighborhoods on the eastside of Portland to help decrease this disparity.
However, many people are wary about – if not outright opposed to – getting a tree of their own because of the costs of tree care, which can increase as a tree grows. This is just one of the reasons Friends of Trees provides tree care along with tree planting, including proper pruning of young trees at no cost to the property owner. And we’re exploring ways to increase the availability of low to no cost tree care for folks who need it, because we know the benefits of trees far outweigh the costs.
In the City of Portland, tree care and maintenance costs are the responsibility of the tree’s adjacent property owner. This is an inequitable financial burden for low-income households, renters, and populations vulnerable to gentrification. Many communities of color cite the financial burdens that a mature tree can bring as a reason to not want to plant trees next to their houses. It’s important to address these very valid concerns since trees have so many benefits, which is why Friends of Trees is continually working on creating programming that is responsive to community needs; in fact, we have funding proposals pending with Portland’s Clean Energy Fund that would help subsidize costs of mature tree care so we can grow our already considerable post-planting tree care services.
Understanding concerns about tree care
In 2018, Friends of Trees partnered with APANO and LARA Media to conduct three focus groups toward better understanding how community members viewed neighborhood trees and tree planting efforts. To increase accessibility these focus groups were conducted in multiple different languages including Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Spanish. Overall, many community members cited the benefits of trees within the city, including their health and environmental benefits:
“Trees are good for the lungs. They are the lungs of the city.”
“In the city, there’s big trees that make the air cooler. It also makes the city greener.”
–participants from the Vietnamese focus group
However, when asked if there are barriers for them to plant trees, many community members cited the long-term costs associated with mature tree care. One participant said: “One of the negatives is that sometimes Portland has a lot of storms and trees fall down when there’s strong wind. I experienced that once. The tree can fall into the house and collapse the house. Usually I try to hire a professional to cut the tree, but it [can cost] thousands of dollars. The tree bothers us.”
Trees and access to the natural environment are integral to healthy, livable neighborhoods. The benefits trees bring are strongest when they are mature, at least 10-15 years after they are planted. However, the fears community members have about the costs trees may bring are also valid, especially since the median household income on the eastside of Portland is lower and there are fears of being pushed out.
Friends of Trees is committed to equitably growing the urban forest through community-centered tree plantings. We offer tree care for the first three years of a tree’s life after it’s planted, including affordable (or free if cost is a prohibiting factor) summer watering service; free mulch; and structural pruning provided at no cost (see the next story for more about our pruning program). Structural pruning on a young tree is vital for its long term health, and can help prevent limbs falling onto a house or car later on in its life, since we can prune for the built environment and the tree will grow into that structure.
However, Friends of Trees also recognizes there are long term costs and concerns that need more support within our communities to make sure the urban forest is distributed equitably. We are continually working on creating programming that is responsive to community needs and when the opportunity arises we pursue grant funding to help subsidize costs of mature tree care. Because we know that, all in all, the positives of trees far outweigh the negatives; as our good friends at J Frank Schmidt like to say, “Trees are the answer.”
Photo: Street tree planting in east Portland, January 2020.
To all of our supporters,
Your support in 2020 meant that, despite unimaginable obstacles, we were still able to plant trees + grow community.
What a year.
So many people supported us in so many ways, it has often brought me to tears. Your commitment is real and I thank you for that.
Your support plants trees in neighborhoods and natural areas while bringing people together and building resilience in our communities.
We can’t do this without you!
Here’s to a tree-filled 2021,
Whitney Dorer, Interim Executive Director
PS: Plant trees with us! When we are planting we are doing so with a number of health and safety features in place to ensure our events are as safe as possible. Check out our events calendar for the latest information about our community tree planting events – and how to get involved!
The 2020 Give!Guide is here!
Willamette Week’s Give!Guide runs through December 31st and is a great way to learn about organizations that are doing amazing work on behalf of people, places, critters and causes (including trees + community, of course ;).
G!G features Big Give Days when donors are entered to win fabulous incentives like shopping sprees, vacation packages, and more.
Why give? Now more than ever, we need trees! They fight climate change, clean our air and water, and make this place beautiful. And when planted the Friends of Trees way, with all kinds of volunteers, trees grow community (ands we need that more than ever, too!).
Tree Walks & Tree Talks – LIVE for Giving Tuesday & Give!Guide on December 1
Because we love giving, we love Give!Guide, we love #GivingTuesday, we love our Give!Guide partners HotLips Pizza & Level Beer, we love the Giving Tuesday Give!Guide sponser New Seasons Market, we love our volunteers & supporters – so! much! love! – we’re sharing the thing we also love with you: trees.
This Giving Tuesday we’re giving you a day full of tree walks and tree talks LIVE on Instagram (and posted to Facebook and tweeted soon after), and it’s a great day to give (more about today’s amazing Give!Guide raffle below the agenda).
What’s the topic?
Where will they be?
|10:00 a.m.||Volunteering AND the Green Space program + a tree walk||Sam & Pablo||Pablo will be LIVE from Salem’s Northgate Park|
|11:30 a.m.||EDI + FOT; plus, Adult Urban Forestry Training Program||Sam & Surabhi||Dharma Rain Zen Center, NE Portland|
|1:00 p.m.||Neighborhood Trees Program + tree walk||Whitney||North Portland|
|3:00||Eugene trees||Erik||Streets of Eugene|
|4:00||Giving, Give!Guide, tree quiz for Toni||Sam & G!G’s Toni T||NE Portland|
Please keep in mind that all events are subject to change due to weather and other issues beyond our control. Check back for agenda changes!
So, YES, today is a great day to give! Of course, #GivingTuesday is all about giving. And if you give $10+ today through Willamette Week’s Give!Guide you could win one of five “Nonprofit #PDXgivesback” packages which include a $100 gift card to New Seasons Market, $100 gift card to Paloma Clothing, and a bundle of goodies from participating nonprofits. AND, if You’re 35 or Under you get an extra chance of winning! One “Nonprofit #PDXgivesback” package is reserved for winning donors under the age of 36!
Each Giving Tuesday #PDXGivesBack prize package includes:
- $100 gift card to New Seasons Market
- $100 gift card to Paloma Clothing
- $20 gift cards to Portland Mercado from Hacienda CDC
- Coloring book, tote, and water bottle from Animal Aid
- Notecard set from Vibe of Portland
- Pair of silicups or silipints from Willamette Riverkeeper
- Mug, #wholecommunity canvas tote, and heart-shaped stress ball from Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare
- Koozie from Friends of Columbia River Gorge
- Two face masks from Clackamas Women’s Services
- Adjustable ball cap from Harper’s Playground
- A tea towel from Portland Fruit Tree Project
- An anthology and gift certificate for a writing workshop from Write Around Portland
- A beanie, fandana, and hand sanitizer from Northwest Mothers Milk Bank
- Totes from Domestic Violence Resource Center
- A coupon for a free drip coffee from Nossa Familia
- Two Washman car washes
- WW’s Finder
One of the following signature pieces has been added to each prize package:
- A rare pair of lifetime tickets to Portland Playhouse
- In Kind gift box with 14 essentials that would be great to add to your hospital bag for delivery, diaper bag, or baby’s nursery
- Women in Science Portland tote and picnic blanket
- Friends of Trees hoodie (hey, that’s from us! )