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Protect Trees and the Climate

I am lucky to have a beautiful and very meaningful date for a birthday: April 22nd, also celebrated as “Earth Day” where much of the world comes together to practice environmental activities and spread awareness of the climate issues we face.

So naturally protecting trees and improving our parks has been ingrained in me from a young age.

The feature that first attracted me to Arlington when I first moved to the area 12 years ago were its parks. I was amazed just how many there were – like emerald jewels scattered across every neighborhood – later coming to learn it’s a point of local pride that almost every resident is within a 10-minute walk of a park.

However, I fear we’re sacrificing our trees without sufficient policies to protect or incentivize them.

As a true lifelong advocate for trees, stepping up to protect our environment isn’t an academic or political activity for me, it’s how I’ve been living my life. For years I’ve helped organize community park improvements and highway trash cleanups across Arlington, Northern Virginia, and even the National Mall in DC. I shop to minimize plastic packaging and practice “balcony composting” to reduce landfill waste.

But there will be big solutions needed with difficult choices to be made. We need leadership that is willing to step up and take these bold actions for the long-term health of our communities – especially the often underserved and overlooked ones in Arlington.

“Our residents are most impacted by tree loss and climate change, so I will empower volunteers and neighborhood civic associations to help implement solutions focused on incentives and growth that are backed by data and transparent planning.”

SURVEY THE CANOPY

Arlington has had a great “tree canopy” with about 41% of our land area shaded by trees. However, that number is dropping. To understand the problems, we must conduct a detailed survey of our tree canopy using a mix of comprehensive surveys and “virtual spot checks” (using i-Tree) while empowering volunteers and neighborhood civic associations to help.

GREEN INCENTIVES

Current policies sacrifice trees for new housing in a “winner takes all” battle royale, even though they can easily exist together with smarter policies. The solution is to offer cash incentives for protecting and planting more trees on private property through an expanded Tree Canopy Fund. Give tax credits and special permitting approvals for construction plans that save mature trees. Additionally, maximize credits and rebates in the proposed Stormwater Utility program to incentivize trees as flood mitigation tools.

BOND, TREE BOND

Implement a “tree bond” program that has developers set aside money for trees on property that is being redeveloped. They then get those funds back when the trees are shown to still be healthy after construction is completed. Do this while also enabling more flexible building setbacks for new construction to save mature trees.

SOLAR ASAP

The new “Amazon Arlington Solar Farm” project will provide approximately 80% of the current energy needs for county buildings. And Arlington’s C-PACE program serves as a “matchmaker” between private sources of financing and businesses that want to install solar panels on their property. Help large and small businesses in Arlington establish similar partnerships to expand solar power to the private sector.

FLEETS OF THE FUTURE

Transportation is one of the largest uses of fossil fuels. Expand our bus network to make it the obvious fuel-efficient choice for everyone in the county. Also, strategically downsize and electrify our county’s work vehicle fleet with careful analysis of how those vehicles are used.

USE THE STICK

Empower volunteers and civic organizations to help aggressively investigate improper tree removal, chemical runoff, and waste dumping with the county imposing serious fines instead of trivial punishments. Push our state and federal government to end subsidies, tax breaks, and liability protections for fossil fuel production, distribution, and use.

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