CONTACT PERSON: Ingrid McClellan, Executive Director, Keep Manatee Beautiful, (941) 795-8272 or Cell (941) 713-1763, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bradenton, Fla. – April 26, 2017 An Urban and Community Forestry Grant of $7,322, funded by the U.S. Forest Service, was awarded to Keep Manatee Beautiful to update the Manatee County Tree Canopy Analysis – A Comparison of 2004-2014. The original analysis was done in 2010. The analysis update is completed just in time for National Arbor Day on April 28.
The analysis update was conducted for each study year (2004, 2009, 2014) on each of the six municipalities in Manatee County (Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Longboat Key - only the portion within Manatee County, and Palmetto) and on the portion of Manatee County (i.e., unincorporated Manatee County) that does not lie within any of the six municipal boundaries, for a total of seven analyses. Aerial photographs for these three study years were acquired from the Southwest Florida Water Management District data library to use to measure the acreage of tree canopy.
Scientists used iTree Landscape software developed by USDA Forest Service to assign ecological and economic values to the canopy within three benefit areas: carbon storage and sequestration, air quality (air pollutant removal) and stormwater runoff reduction. With the iTree Landscape software, Manatee County and local municipalities can accurately identify communities in most need of trees and maintain existing trees routinely.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The conclusion of the analysis update was that Manatee County’s tree canopy covering its area has fluctuated from 26 percent in 2004, to 39 percent in 2009, then to 32 percent in 2014 (comparisons attached). These percentages include invasive tree species. Although Manatee County’s tree canopy has increased since 2004, with a tree canopy covering 32 percent of its land area, Manatee County is behind in meeting the 40 percent target set by American Forests for urban tree coverage. Unincorporated areas have canopy coverage of 32 percent, which is an increase of 6 percent since 2004. Manatee County’s incorporated areas have a combined urban forest cover of 32 percent. Canopy coverage in four of Manatee County’s six cities, including its two largest, has increased since 2004 (Palmetto, Longboat Key, Bradenton, Anna Maria).
Development impacts the tree canopy. Larger trees are removed and replaced with smaller trees or trees are removed altogether in exchange for a fee. As Manatee County continues to increase in developed area, the overall tree canopy may be jeopardized. Recommendations identified in the analysis to be shared with local governments are:
- Re-create the two Urban Forest Manager positions that were eliminated within Manatee County’s Public Works Department as well as Building and Development Services Department, and place it in the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department. This department was chosen, because they currently manage other resources, such as air, water quality, preserves, beach re-nourishment, manatee protection, artificial reefs, boating safety and aids to navigation. The role of the Urban Forest Managers would be to coordinate the county staff with tree protection and maintenance roles, oversee the tree removal permitting processes, and play a lead role in invasive plant removal and mangrove protection.
- Governments and developers need to ensure that new developments incorporate both appropriate landscape vegetation in new projects, as well as preservation of existing tree communities to provide positive environmental benefits to residents.
- Tree protection is important in any community, and the landscape codes for each municipality and the county should reflect a commitment to preserve mature trees and to plant new trees when developing new projects. Public trees (i.e. street trees, median trees and park trees) must be properly maintained by maintenance staff. Trees within private property should also be protected by the landscape code. Property owners should be educated about the importance of a substantial, healthy tree canopy, which includes all of the trees in the county – including those on private lands. Trees that are removed from both private and public lands should be replaced with enough trees so that there is no net loss of total tree canopy.
- Urban areas can also greatly benefit from revitalization projects that conserve existing trees and introduce new trees into streetscapes with few or no trees. Studies have shown that, because trees create a positive environment that attracts and welcomes consumers, pedestrians tend to shop and linger longer along tree lined streets.
When analyzed in 2009 for carbon sequestration and storage, air pollutant removal and stormwater management, Manatee County’s tree canopy provided the equivalent $230,662,176 in environmental benefits to its residents. These positive results reinforce the need for Manatee County to protect and increase the area of its tree canopy, as well as justify the costs associated with managing trees as a resource.