Fall color tours are a big driving force for Michigan’s tourist economy, but the trees themselves also play a big role.
“This time of year is a great time to talk about the importance of trees, because we’re all ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing’ as we drive through our wonderful northern Michigan,” said Kama Ross, retired district forester for the conservation districts of Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Benzie counties.
MNR publishes a groundbreaking study on the economic value of so-called “urban and community forestry,” proving that trees are more than just a sight to behold.
“Our Urban Forest Community and the certified arborists and tree care professionals who care for our urban trees are a vibrant part of our community,” says Ross.
According to MNR, a new federally funded study shows that the overall economic impact of urban and community forestry is approximately $2.5 billion.
“We know that these benefits come back to us in multiple ways. Not just economically, but for people’s health and well-being,” says Ross. “If we really want to invest in our community, in addition to infrastructure and all the construction going on, we need to make sure our landscape reflects the importance we place on our emotional and physical well-being. And the trees are at the center of everything.
It’s not just about community tree planting and local government efforts. The DNR also says that the urban forest economy also includes things like landscaping companies, nursery services, and even garden supply stores. Jason Hobson of Lightning Turtle Landscapes says, “I’m a small landscaping company…so if we’re doing a full landscaping plan, I bring in trees, whether they’re just ornamental or lush. maple, birch or spruce that grow up to 70 feet tall.
“You talk to any tree care professional, they’re extremely busy all year round now. And businesses growing like crazy here in northern Michigan,” Ross adds. whether it’s moving rocks, installing water features or planting trees, Lightning Turtle Landscapes agrees that trees also add value to a property.”You are entering a site that has been depleted of all trees , if they’ve clearcut something, whether it’s a housing estate or commercial property…bringing trees into a landscape helps not only to provide shade, but also to give more habitat for birds, insects. As well as creating aesthetics,” says Hobson.
The DNR says urban forestry provides more than 20,000 jobs with a payroll of around $75 million. Other “related jobs” add another 7,000 workers to the tally — and bring Michigan’s payroll to more than $1 billion. The DNR cites the federally funded regional study focused on states belonging to the Northeast-Midwest State Foresters Alliance.
“It’s a lifetime commitment to make sure these trees are well cared for. Whether they prune, water or fertilize. We all need to be good stewards,” says Ross.
The benefits of trees come to us in many ways. The study also shows that trees in urban areas provide more than $135 million in ecosystem services, such as reduced stormwater and reduced air pollution. By relieving pressure on city storm drains, trees can help reduce the cost of maintaining these systems.
“You’re able to essentially create a microclimate there, and you benefit the whole region,” Hobson says.
Hobson refers to Traverse City as a tree town, United States. “We are a tree town, and the City of Traverse City is doing a really good job of trying to help preserve that.” City Utilities Manager Frank Dituri says, “Our tree cover for the city is above the average for most cities in Michigan. We’ve been a Tree City, USA for over 30 years in a row. And we all recognize the benefits that trees provide to the ecosystem, stormwater runoff, etc.
“This is the first time in history that we have a certified arborist,” adds Michelle Hunt, superintendent of parks and recreation. “Most trees have their own data layer and we try to track tree health. This is our approach to managing the urban canopy and each individual tree in the city. The community can also get involved in this area, thanks to an interactive tree map. »
The DNR says the study is separate and in addition to the $22 billion that the forest products industry contributes to Michigan’s economy.
To learn more about MNR’s urban and community forestry, click here.
For the full Traverse City tree report, click here.