"The urbanized forest is the city's largest, most visible, and most important natural resource." – Carmel-by-the-Sea's Forest Management Plan (FMP)
The trees that collectively form our forest make Carmel a better place to live - both in terms of aesthetics and quality of life. Trees frame our views, are home to a variety of birds and animals, filter our air, and shelter us from the winds. Studies show that people are happier and healthier in a green environment. Our urban forest is the very thing that makes our village unique and welcoming to residents and visitors alike.
Each tree is unique and should be protected as if the entire forest depended on it, because it does. When permits are granted for development of homes, every tree on that property must be preserved or replaced. In 2014, 114 permits were granted to remove trees on private property, but only 49 were required to be replaced. There has also been no follow up to ensure those trees have been planted and are healthy.
The City Forester estimated over 170 public trees were lost in 2015, in addition to a 7-year back log. In 2014, 142 trees were removed with only 39 replaced. Simply put, Carmel's trees are in trouble. Development, disease, drought are the main culprits, but neglect, lack of resources for management and code enforcement are also to blame. Climate change will also have an impact, with higher temperatures affecting the moisture rich fog that our forest depends on.
Walk down any Carmel-by-the-Sea street and you will witness trees that are struggling to survive or are no longer there. Whole blocks that were once graced by towering pines and cypress are now just sparsely dotted with trees. Fortunately, there is now enthusiasm from the City Council to fully implement and fund the FMP. Will they move ahead and replenish and care for the forest in the very near future? It is getting late. Our forest is losing and we cannot afford to wait.
Written by Robert Shuler