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Jun 10, 2022

Two years after Councilmen Brian Kazy and Kerry McCormack introduced legislation to resurrect the city’s Tree Commission, council passed the amended legislation.

Legislation establishing a 15-member Urban Forestry Commission, with eight appointed by the mayor and seven appointed by council, brings back a similar commission that existed in the 1990s but stopped operating in the early 2000s.

Membership will include representatives of city departments that affect the canopy, including Urban Forestry, the Division of Engineering and Construction, the Department of Public Utilities, and City Planning. Other members would be a council member, a certified arborist, representatives of an electric company and an environmental justice group, a developer who’s worked in Cleveland, non-profits like the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, and community members, including one youth.

Cleveland’s tree canopy has been on the decline for decades, and the city continues to lose 97 acres of tree cover each year. But trees, especially in urban areas, provide a host of economic, health and community benefits, like storing greenhouse gas emissions, improving water quality by filtering out pollutants, and naturally cooling off homes.

Local governments, grassroots groups and others in recent years have worked to bring attention to Cleveland’s diminished canopy. The city was once known as  Forest City.  The plan is to also strengthen in-house efforts.

The Urban Forestry Commission could make policy recommendations to the mayor and council to better maintain and grow the tree canopy. It would work with city departments to reduce tree loss and damage, help educate residents about proper care, and foster more tree-related collaboration among city departments.

The commission will also solicit money for the city’s Tree Preservation Fund, which was established in 2018 but hasn’t been funded. Some of the money would come through grants or donations, but other money would come through fines. The commission would help the Urban Forestry section determine how to start collecting such penalties, which range up to $1,000.

Council members and the mayor could also ask the commission to examine any pressing tree-related issues and offer policy solutions or best practices the city could employ. Ord. No. 702-2020