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Putting a dollar value on that tree in your yard

A view of a large banyan tree that overlooks the 17th green of the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club in Miami, Florida.

Today being Arbor Day, we thought we would look into the economic value of trees. There are, of course, lots of things you can do with lumber, but what is the value of a living tree? It turns out to be surprisingly high.

Take the Ficus tree outside our office window. It’s about two stories tall, and it’s worth $152 a year, according to a calculation made by software called i-Tree.

“There are three main parts to the calculation,” says Dave Nowak with the U.S. Forest Service. He is one of the creators of i-Tree, which arrived at that $152 value by accounting for the Ficus tree's carbon absorption, how it shades our  building, lowering energy costs, and how it affects the water table by reducing stream flows and improving water quality.

John McNeil is the manager of forestry for the town of Oakville in Ontario, Canada, one of many local governments that use i-Tree.

“We used it to quantify the form function and value of Oakville’s urban forest,” McNeil says.

The value of Oakville’s trees is $2.5 million each year. The city of Pittsburgh recently used i-Tree and determined that every dollar the city invests in tree planting generates $3 in economic benefits.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.
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As my clients age they want more and more cut out of their trees. Failing eyesight, senile dementia, lots of different factors with aging and arborphobia. Fortunately we can help build quality in their lives by accentuating the positives in the trees, reminding them of contributions, and compromising between their fears and tree values. http://www.historictreecare.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/ISA-CEU-Basic... is an objective approach.

Even older clients are comfortable with retaining compromised trees, when they understand the processes involved. Retrenchment pruning on hollow trees, for instance. Old trees shrink naturally, as old people do. Geriatric tree owners can feel compassion for geriatric trees, if both are managed right.

A tree near a house is a killer. That's all.

You may value it at $152 or $152000 or any arbitrary number you stupidly choose. My life is worth more than that, so I had the trees on my property eliminated.

There may be instances where a tree near a house is indeed a killer: wildfire danger from limbs touching house, diseased or frost-cracked trunks that may cause tree to fall on roof, dead branches not being pruned, and sugar pine cones falling on someone's head. But characterizing all trees near a house as a "killer" is a gross exaggeration of reality. Trees have been planted around residences for over four hundred years in the USA to provide a wide array of ecosystem services ranging from protection from wind, shade in the summer for cooling, CO2 absorption, providing habitat for keystone species critical for ecosystem health. I think if they were "killers" as asserted here, we would have stopped planting trees near houses a long time ago.

It is poorly maintained trees that pose dangers to humans, and at least we humans--intelligent species that we are--can do something when trees begin to pose danger: pruning or removal being two options. Even after removal, new trees can be planted near houses (as long as they don't threaten the houses foundation) allowing future generations of people to reap the benefits.

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