“Getting Ahead of Canopy Loss in the City in the Forest” by Christina Gibson

Photograph by Arthur Thompson

Getting Ahead of Canopy Loss in the City in the Forest
By Christina Gibson, Canopy Conservation Coordinator, Trees Atlanta

Many Atlantans are alarmed by the rapid loss of trees in town these days. Buzzwords like ‘good urbanism,’ ‘high density,’ and ‘sustainability’ pepper many conversations and marketing materials about new development in Atlanta, but our urban forest—and our corresponding civic identity as the ‘City in the Forest’—suffers from rampant tree loss. This current reality begs the old adage: are we literally missing the forest for the trees?

The question is simple: how is Atlanta going to grow WITH its trees? We have the chance to write that narrative now, while we have remnant greenspace to work with from the side effects of urban sprawl. Solutions must be sought through more innovative design and holistic development on the site scale, as well as progressive environmental policies and land use planning at the regional scale. Trees Atlanta will continue planting trees everywhere we can, but we simply cannot keep pace to mitigate our dwindling tree canopy without working together to actively protect our existing forest, too. We simply must do both.

Attending NPU (neighborhood planning unit) and civic association meetings can be a good place to start to learn about new projects coming up in your part of town. At this level of planning, developers often present conceptual plans to the neighborhood, especially when seeking a zoning change or variance; this can be an effective stage for citizens to get involved, educate each other, and speak for the trees.

But let’s also consider some bold ideas to get ahead of this canopy loss pattern.