A couple weeks ago, a consultant, who has been researching Sarasota County tree canopy changes over the past several decades, gave a "tailored" presentation to the City Commissioners. He concentrated mostly on changes to the city’s canopy during the time frame studied.
Raymond Kurz of PBS&J presented research results that indicated that in the City of Sarasota:
- From '75 to '86 we lost 33% of our tree canopy
- From '86 to '93 we gained 4% of canopy
- From '93 to '02 we lost 4% of canopy
Mr Kurz indicated it was possible that the canopy had "stabilized' in the last decade.
The primary forces causing the loss of canopy in the county are increasing agriculture and increasing development.
East of I-75, canopy cover has been reduced from about 80% to 60% over the time frame studied. Also it appeared that this canopy had stabilized.
West of I-75, the canopy coverage dropped from 60% to 35%.
In the City, during the time frame of '93 to '02, it appears that we are seeing growth of existing trees at a 4-6% annual rate. The existing canopy coverage is 17-18% and he would suggest 40% as an achievable target. The increase in growth has been primarily along streets.
Compared to Tampa, Sarasota has a low canopy coverage. We are also below the American Forest guidelines for cities.
Using the American Forest Model for economic benefit of tree canopy, it was suggested that we have an annual benefit of $7.7M (primarily energy benefits). If stormwater runoff benefits are included this increases to $19M per year.
It was pointed that tree canopy is particularly efficient in attenuating the first 1" of rainfall. Rainfall events larger than 1" will still require added mitigation.
It was also suggested that the City establish tree canopy goals and include these in the Comprehensive Plan.
Save Our Sarasota would strongly encourage the City to adopt tree canopy goals and include these in our Comprehensive Plan. We need to find the resources to increase our tree canopy. The return on this investment will be significant.