In the wake of steady and severe drought and the encroaching impacts of climate change, the city of Santa Fe is seeking to fortify its tree canopy by planting more drought-resistant trees.
The TreeSmart Santa Fe program will kick off on Arbor Day, April 30, with a small tree-planting ceremony.
“We want to have the right tree, with the right resources at the right place at the right time,” acting Parks Director Melissa McDonald said.
An estimated 20 percent of the city’s more than 1,850 trees are dying, dead or in poor condition. The average urban tree only lasts seven to 10 years, which the city is seeking to change, McDonald said.
“It’s not about the quantity of trees. It’s about the quality of trees. We want to make sure every tree we plant has the greatest possible impact,” she said.
Mayor Alan Webber said another focus of the program is addressing the equity of where trees are planted. He acknowledged the city’s south side has historically received less attention when it comes to trees.
“We need to do a better job of making sure that trees and the canopy they provide, the protection they offer, is across all parts of Santa Fe,” Webber said. “Up until now, it’s safe to say that trees are sparse on the south side, and we are out to change that.”
A map of the city’s trees shows less coverage on the south side, which leads to a warmer temperature compared to other areas and potentially higher utility costs for residents and businesses, which McDonald called the “heat island effect.”
City Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth will take the lead in launching the initiative through a resolution co-sponsored by City Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta that will further lay out the goals.
The Santa Fe Community Foundation received a $30,000 donation to kick-start the program.
Romero-Wirth said the proposal is a public-private partnership and will mix public dollars with donations to continue what the city sees as a long-term project.