The Town of Cary, once graced with a tree canopy of 99.5%, is down to less than 45%. We lose on average 440 acres per year to development. This decrease has been steady over the last 20 years.
Our Urban Forest — all the public and private trees that grow in Cary — are important infrastructure for our lives.
They are the everyday cornerstone that keeps us in touch with nature. They clean our increasingly polluted air, moderate our rising summer temperatures, absorb rainfall, clean our water, and pull carbon from the atmosphere. They shape our environment and keep us healthy in body and mind. They help us fulfill our responsibility to value and respect our ecosystem.
Some of those things can be seen as services, so-called “ecosystem services,” yielding millions of dollars per year in municipal and personal benefits without the outlay of tax dollars. They enhance the value of our individual properties and the town as a whole. Maintaining and increasing optimal service from this natural infrastructure requires attention, monitoring, protection, and care, just as does any other element of the Town's infrastructure.
The major contribution (most of which happens outside our conscious awareness) that wooded natural areas make to reducing stress, restoring peacefulness, and connecting us to the natural world are even more important and should not be reduced to elements in a financial equation. We can’t buy those things. Replacing them is slow and uncertain. Once lost, they are gone for generations.
We can no longer take trees for granted. For the past 20 years we’ve been losing many acres of forest per year to new development, and now we’re beginning to lose big trees to re-development in older parts of town. When trees that we see every day are taken down by chainsaws and bulldozers, we feel deeply wounded, but we move on with our lives because it seems like there is nothing to be done.
We can and I will halt the decrease in the Town's tree cover, and begin the process of increasing it – as an initial goal – to 50%* – and with a long-range goal of planting a true urban forest of which those who come after us are both proud and grateful.
* Professor Edward O. Wilson, in his book, Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life [New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company; 2016], proposes dedicating half the earth's surface to nature because anything less would result in mass extinction of species, including our own. — Cary should pull its share, and perhaps because of our blessed and favored status, some percentage more than our share.
We reproduce the video below that supported an 8/30/2018 report by the News & Observer that opines that "relief" from the explosive development in northwestern Cary it documents will come in the form of "5 road projects." With that conclusion put forth by videographer Travis Long and producer Kevin Keistner, I disagree. Relief will require more than five roads. Much, much more!
In fact, "relief" is a grossly misleading term in this instance. While the roads, when completed in six or eight years, may provide some relief for people caught in traffic jams created by the huge influx of people and their vehicles, building those roads will require further destruction of the urban forest, with comcomitant loss of the many benefits it provides.
The image below shows a part of Cary from the air. The Cary Community Plan calls for "infill" development. Infill development is inevitable, and in most cases desirable. But for the areas to be liveable, there must be trees . . . .
. . . because:
. . . and in addition, for every single reason listed here.