Every year, residents and businesses spend tons of money on plants, trees, garden supplies, and landscape services. It’s vital to make sure they are investing in the right types of plants and landscaping materials to grow and protect our long-standing urban forest. That’s why the City of Santa Fe Municipal Tree Board and the Extension Master Gardeners of Santa Fe are currently working together to educate citizens to document our existing urban-forest assets.

This citizen science project is conducting an inventory of the community forest to provide more detailed information regarding species, diameter, condition, location data, pests that afflict trees, and factors influencing tree health. Participants are also teaching master gardeners, interns, and the public how to build leadership in this citizen science effort through proper species selection and knowledge of tree care.

With spring planting season upon us, now is the time to think about how we can help fight climate change and protect Santa Fe’s native landscapes by growing its urban forest. The U.S. Forest Service defines community urban forests as “dynamic ecosystems that provide environmental services such as clean air and water. Trees cool cities and save energy; improve air quality; strengthen quality of place and local economies; reduce storm water runoff; improve social connections; complement smart growth; and create walkable communities.”

Santa Fe’s community urban forest is the entire collection of trees and landscape plants growing in its residential neighborhoods, commercial developments, and public lands. Santa Fe’s community urban forest also includes water and surface landscapes. By helping to protect and grow this important community asset, we can protect the climate while reducing fire and insect infestation risks to native piñon and juniper stands and diversifying the species of shade, ornamental, and evergreen trees within Santa Fe’s community urban forest.

This project helps build the urban forest through local education, while also providing the information to the Parks Division for further assessment, follow-up maintenance, and good decision-making. In addition to selecting the right plants for our environment, the project teaches how to select alternatives to heat-absorbing and runoff-prone hard surfaces such as glass, stone, metal, asphalt, and concrete; and alternative approaches to water-catchment.

Before you head to the nursery, learn more about what you can do to help us preserve and grow Santa Fe’s community urban forest by visiting www.santafenm.gov/municipal_tree_board for educational materials on how to select drought-tolerant trees that are non-invasive and for their watering care.

Also, don’t forget that outside watering is now allowed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. between May 1 and Oct. 31. Because of evaporation, it takes more water to irrigate during the heat of the day. To learn more about how much water you are using for irrigation, find leaks, and to stay out of Tier II water rates, sign up for the City’s free EyeOnWater app. For information on how to sign up for EyeOnWater, apply for a rebate or learn more about our program, please visit savewatersantafe.com.

Christine Y. Chavez has a background in water rights administration and energy and water conservation program management in the state of New Mexico. She is a graduate of New Mexico State University with a B.S. in environmental science and an M.S. in biology. Christine is the water-conservation manager for the City of Santa Fe. She may be reached at 505-955-4219 or cychavez@santafenm.gov.

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