Friday, March 4, 2011

Study aims to protect Macon's tree canopy - volunteers assist with land cover mapping to identify changes in canopy - Macon, GA

Study aims to protect Macon's tree canopy - Local & State -

“Tree canopy is essential and irreplaceable,” said Connie Head, an urban forestry consultant with Technical Forestry Service. “It’s part of a city’s infrastructure. It’s as important as our road networks, fire, police. ... It allows us to breathe and increases the value of an area.”
In 2008, Macon’s tree canopy was 37 percent, down more than 2 percent from measurements in 1991, according to numbers from the University of Georgia Natural Resources Spatial Analysis Laboratory.
Ecologically, 50 percent would be ideal, Head said, but 40 percent should be an absolute minimum for a city Macon’s size.
“It’s up to each community to decide for itself (what the right percentage is),” Head said, which is why she has been commissioned by the city of Macon and the Macon Tree Commission.
In 2001, Bibb County had 49 percent tree canopy coverage, Head said, but due to the development of the area since then, that percentage is expected to be lower this time around. Through the study, she is calculating numbers for Macon and also for all of Bibb County.
“This is coming at a good time because of the potential for consolidation,” Head said. “This is planned to be a sister ordinance, so it’ll be the same for both (Macon and Bibb County).”
Macon’s current tree ordinance addresses only public property and rights of way, Head said.
“This is unique among cities in Georgia of the size of Macon,” she said. “In fact, all cities greater than 30,000 population, except for Macon, regulate tree canopy cover on new developments.”
The project will analyze 85 aerial-view maps of the city and county, representing 2,560 acres each. Most of the maps include nearly 5,000 dots which must be color-coded based on the cover type at that spot on the map. Those conducting the study are measuring five land cover types -- tree canopy, other vegetation, hard or impervious surfaces, bare soil or gravel and water.

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