Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez Develops Urban Forest Blueprint
November 1, 2004
Along with safe streets and good economic opportunities, a key hallmark of a thriving city is its infrastructure, both built and natural. Though I can always be counted on to carry the torch for more police and better roads, I am also a great believer in the idea that our quality of life is enhanced greatly by our environmental amenities as well.
Here in Albuquerque, we have made great progress in recent years with cleaner air, water quality restoration, and even endangered species protection. But one area I felt needed greater dialog and understanding had to do with our overall inventory of trees, our 'urban forest.'
In addition to improving our air and helping us conserve energy, trees add to the beauty of our community and add value to our property. Economic analysis, by the organization American Forests, estimates that city trees provide $400 billion in storm-water and air quality benefits nationwide.
So we set about developing and executing an Urban Forest blueprint as part of our overall strategic plan for public safety and quality of life. And having recently been notified of a national honor for support of urban forestry from the National Alliance for Community Trees, I felt it was a good time to convey some key points of our overall plan.
Through the heart of Albuquerque runs a river forest we call "The Bosque." Enormous wildfires there in the Summer of 2003 really drove home for us the need to accelerate our plan to eliminate non-native vegetation, replant and restore the native Cottonwood/Willow gallery (the 2nd largest in the world), and essentially turn a great swath of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque into a Central Park of sorts for Albuquerque.
Fortunately, those near catastrophic fires were doused by the nation's first urban fire department to be completely cross-trained in urban wildfire interface. And our plan going forward includes a wide variety of amenities such as a Beach Park renovation, water sport and recreation amenities, and bike trails.
And thanks to our partners in the congressional delegation and Forest Service, there are now additional resources toward restoration, as well as the clearing that is now about 70 percent complete. Eradicating the invasive species of flora also has the effect of helping us preserve our groundwater supply.
When this project is done, we will have roughly two-thousand acres of more user-friendly, environmentally responsible and water-wise parkland to enjoy.
To visitors, our interstates and major medians say a lot about what we think of ourselves as a community. Unfortunately, we have not always put our best forward in this regard, either on our avenues or between the juncture of Interstates 25 and 40, and the outskirts of our town.
So as part of our overall plan for aesthetic improvements to our beautiful city, we began utilizing a community driven set of median xeriscape packages that both improve the look of our streets and reflect the tastes of each neighborhood. We are also going forward with an ambitious plan to foster trees and shrubs where appropriate along our interstates.
Of course it makes little sense to just go out and plant a bunch of trees without some overall consideration and design for our urban forest as a whole. Toward that end, we undertook a tree inventory to yield a blueprint of what needs to be planted where and when in order to provide continuity as the major planting initiatives of the early-middle 20th century begin to die off.
Partnerships Going Forward
Our partnerships include Tree New Mexico, The Sovereign Indian Pueblos of Sandia, Santa Ana and Isleta, The National Tree Trust, American Forests, The New Mexico State Forestry Division, The Santa Fe and Albuquerque Community Foundations, The US Fish and Wildlife and Forestry Services, the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps and several volunteer advisory boards and commissions made up of parks and open space advocates.
To learn more about local tree groups in your community, www.actrees.org is a great place to start.
Working together with a full set of partners, not only have we maintained our rich legacy of good planning and execution for the environmental and aesthetic needs of future generations, but we are doing much to enhance it. I am proud of the work in this area by so many and am excited about our future.