Arbor Day comes each year on April 30, naturally marked by the planting of trees. But this year in Santa Fe, the celebration has been broadened to include a focus on preserving and expanding the city’s tree canopy.

It’s not just planting trees but choosing the right ones — as well as protecting those trees already in place. It’s thinking about trees that attract pollinators or have fruit for people. Trees, we know, are more than their beauty. Trees offer shade to cool temperatures, can help conserve water and make our neighborhoods more livable.

To that end, the city is launching TreeSmart Santa Fe, an initiative designed to protect and bolster the canopy of trees in our town. On Friday, starting at 4 p.m., city officials will plant four trees at Rancho del Sol Park, 6068 Monte Azul Place. This is an in-person event, but with appropriate COVID-19 safe guidelines.

Three chinkapin oaks and one Rocky Mountain juniper are going in to create this first grove, but many more will be planted in the fall. That’s just the beginning.

The initiative — learn more at treesmart-thecitydifferent.hub.arcgis.com — is a comprehensive effort to help Santa Fe protect its trees as the climate becomes drier and hotter.

An inventory is underway across city parks to access the conditions, types and numbers of trees.

Volunteers are helping this yearslong project, including members of the Municipal Tree Board and the Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners.

There’s another private component as well, with efforts to help people choose the right trees for the climate — resources on the TreeSmart website — and to understand how trees can make hot days more livable.

On the south side of Santa Fe, for example, temperatures already are warmer than closer to the mountains. Establishing a canopy of trees will reduce islands of heat.

A city resolution is guiding the initiative. A donor has established a fund at the Santa Fe Community Foundation, giving $30,000 as a seed grant to boost the effort, with $60,000 pledged from the city budget in 2022.

Other groups joining include the Municipal Tree Board, Bee City USA, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Wildland Fire Group, the Santa Fe Watershed Association and Keep Santa Fe Beautiful. A number of city divisions are involved — Parks, Water Conservation and Environmental Services divisions — meaning the effort combines resources and knowledge in a way that will make Santa Fe a better place to live.

There is simply no downside to improving the health of trees in a city. Tending to trees is the ultimate act of acting locally and thinking globally initiative as our climate heats up.

More trees will mean cleaner air and less particulate pollution, and their presence provides habitat for birds, insects and other critters. Where there is shade, pedestrians tend to walk more, which in turn helps people stay healthy. Trees are good for mental health, too.

Trees are good, period.

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