Include developers in replanting tree canopy

No one needs reminding at this time of year, when red and golden leaves brighten the landscape, that trees make city life more beautiful and bearable.

Less appreciated is that trees are more than lovely window dressing: They clean the air and water, curb carbon, create oxygen, reduce urban heat, erosion and flooding, improve the soil and save energy. That’s not a comprehensive list but it’s a good start.

So, it’s much appreciated that the Lexington Urban County Council is getting serious about turning the tide on our community’s diminishing tree canopy. A 2012 study determined that about 27 percent of Lexington was sheltered under trees while 40 percent is the recommended cover. A local tree expert estimated that about 5 percent of that cover has been lost since 2012 to emerald ash borer, an insect that attacks ash trees, with more still to suffer.

The positive first step was creation of what’s now called a Tree Canopy Subcommittee, made up of council members, tree scientists and representatives of local non-profits. The idea, broadly, is to develop a strategy to plant more trees in Lexington and find a way to pay for it.

The 2012 study found that 84 percent of the land where trees are needed is private, so any effort will require a strong, efficient public-private partnership. In that regard, we urge Councilman Jake Gibbs, the subcommittee’s chairman, to reach out and include the development community in the panel. That way, as recommendations take shape, the builders who shape so much of the city will be part of the conversation.