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Mayor Megan Barry Takes Executive Action to Preserve, Grow Nashville’s Tree Canopy

Sean Braisted, 615-862-6461

New Urban Forestry Manager to coordinate Metro agencies around tree-related activities

Mayor Megan Barry has signed Executive Order No. 40, recognizing trees as a public utility, establishing new guidelines to govern Metro’s planting and maintenance of trees, and appointing a new Urban Forestry Program Manager to lead and coordinate Metro tree-related activities. These steps to protect and grow the countywide tree canopy will help the city achieve its long-term sustainability goals, such as protecting air and water quality, improving public health, and saving taxpayer dollars on stormwater projects.

“As we grow, we must remember to protect the natural assets that make Nashville a great place to call home,” said Mayor Megan Barry. “The urban forest cleans the air we breathe and the water we drink, moderates flooding and extreme heat events, and improves mental health—among many other benefits. Trees therefore deserve consideration in the same class as other essential, basic utility infrastructure.”

The Urban Forestry Program Manager – a position housed in the Stormwater Division of Metro Water Services – will routinely report directly to the Mayor on progress made toward maintaining and growing Nashville’s tree canopy. As outlined in the Executive Order, the Forestry Manager will be responsible for:

  • Ensuring the Metropolitan Government leads by example, increasing its own minimum requirements for tree preservation and planting to be more stringent than those required of private development;
  • Establishing a Metro Tree Working Group to coordinate and provide updates on tree-related policy and initiatives;
  • Formalizing maintenance standards, including the regular tracking of tree removals and replanting opportunities throughout the county;
  • Organizing updates to the countywide Urban Tree Canopy assessment no less frequently than every five years.

“Urban trees can lower concentrations of air pollution by 10-35 percent, reduce the energy demand for indoor air conditioning by up to half, provide excellent homes for urban wildlife, reduce summer air temperatures by up to 4 degrees, and filter harmful chemicals out of our drinking water,” said Mekayle Houghton of the Cumberland River Compact, who chaired compilation of the Natural Resources recommendations for Mayor Barry’s Livable Nashville effort. “Our subcommittee therefore felt strongly that strategies related to a healthy urban forest should be a cornerstone to any updates to Metro’s sustainability strategy.”

The Executive Order also directs applicable departments to ensure full compliance with Metro’s tree-related policies and regulations, while providing flexibility and predictability for developers to donate toward replanting new trees where tree density requirements cannot be reasonably met.

“We’re proud to respond to Mayor Barry’s call to host Metro’s new Urban Forestry Program Manager within our Stormwater Division,” said Water Services Director Scott Potter. “Trees are the best stormwater management tool we have: Just one tree can absorb around 1,000 gallons of water waste, thus saving significant dollars when compared to the cost of building conventional ‘gray’ stormwater infrastructure, such as pipes and large storage tanks.”

Nashville has relatively high tree-canopy coverage (47 percent as of the last assessment) when compared to the national average, but trails many of its peer cities; and coverage within the city is not uniform. The recent development boom has placed significant pressure on the urban tree canopy, so Mayor Barry’s Livable Nashville sustainability plan has set an umbrella goal of 50 percent countywide tree-canopy coverage by the year 2050 — an approximate addition of 500,000 net new trees. Developing an urban forestry program was also a key recommendation from private-sector developers via the Urban Land Institute of Nashville’s Gear Up 2020 report, submitted to Mayor Barry in mid-2016.

More information on canopy goals specific to areas of Davidson County that lack adequate tree coverage can be found in Metro’s Urban Forestry Master Plan

About Metro’s new Urban Forestry Program Manager: Naomi Rotramel comes to Nashville from the Montgomery County Parks Department in Maryland, where she managed high-risk tree operations and public outreach associated with the Emerald Ash Borer infestation on 36,000 acres of parkland and 418 parks. Prior to this role, she was a GIS tree-inventory specialist and field supervisor with the Davey Resource Group, inspecting over 400,000 trees across North America and helping more than 30 municipalities build tree inventories to manage their urban forests. She holds a B.S. in Botany and an M.S. in Forestry from the University of Washington at Seattle, as well as professional certifications as an Arborist and Tree Risk Assessment Qualifier, and has published research on forest soils in the Journal of Forest Ecology and Management.