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Caring for SLC’s Trees

Salt Lake City’s urban forest suffered notable damage in the September 8 wind storm. The carefully maintained forest consists of nearly 85,000 public trees. 

Sadly, the City lost approximately 1,500 public trees from city parks, the cemetery, park strips, and medians. We estimate that another 3,000 public trees were damaged and are in need of repair– on top of the private trees from yards that were lost or damaged.

This is certainly a sad occurrence for our environment and community– especially if you lost a beloved tree.

However, as Urban Forester Tony Gliot describes in the video below, storms are a natural part of our ecosystem and we have the opportunity to come together and re-plant many of these trees that were lost.

Salt Lake City’s Urban Forestry Division works hard to care for our existing trees and to help plant more. Even before the storm, tree planting was a priority for our city. Not only do city trees help make our streets beautiful, they help make Salt Lake City more resilient.

Urban forests are critical parts of green infrastructure, providing natural air and water filtration, mitigating the Urban Heat Island effect, and helping with carbon drawdown. As a result, trees can help make Salt Lake City a pleasant and climate resilient community.

Want to learn more about Salt Lake City’s urban forest and how you can help support our trees? Read on!

Trees vs. Climate Change

The green infrastructure provided by trees provides something we all love in the summer: shade. According to the EPA, the maximum temperatures of shaded surfaces can be between 20–45°F cooler than unshaded areas. This is especially important in cities where buildings, roads, and city infrastructure absorb the daytime heat. The absorbed heat effectively warms the entire city, making cities warmer than surrounding areas resulting in what is called an Urban Heat Island.

By making cities a little cooler in the summer, trees and vegetation help us cut down on the energy we use to cool buildings – and the associated carbon use and pollution. Trees are also able to help filter the air pollutants and sequester the carbon dioxide that we do produce. The EPA also notes that trees absorb rainwater, which is an important part of protecting our stormwater.

Recognizing these benefits is one reason why Salt Lake City has a long-term Urban Forest Action Plan. Check out the video from last year’s Summer Planning Series, which discussed the benefits of trees and how the City is working to increase our canopy to serve our entire community.

Watch the video from the 2019 Summer Planning Series walking tour on our SLC Urban Forest.

​Caring for the Urban Forest 

Trees are also associated with improved mental health and overall quality of life. They provide habitat for animals, and reduce street noise. While trees are key to our health and happiness, we must also take care of them.

City trees are maintained by Salt Lake City’s Urban Forestry Division. However, some tree care is the responsibility of Salt Lake City residents. This includes watering the park strip trees in front of your house.

You can find more information about how to care for the trees along your park strip here!

Environmental Equity

Before the storm, Mayor Mendenhall announced her 1,000 Trees Initiative. Although Salt Lake City has always planted trees all over the city, her goal is to specifically focus tree-planting on the Westside in an effort to improve our City’s environmental equity. Westside neighborhoods typically produce less air pollution, but have worse air quality due to their proximity to highways, rail lines, the airport, and more.

By increasing the number of Westside trees, Salt Lake City can help combat this issue. Read more about Mayor Mendenhall’s 1,000 Trees initiative here.

In addition to the Mayor’s 1,000 trees initiative, Salt Lake City and TreeUtah have joined forces for the ReTree SLC project. You can donate to help plant trees lost by the storm!

Replanting Salt Lake City’s trees will be a challenge, but Salt Lake City’s Urban Forestry division will be working to replace the trees with sound planting strategies and appropriate tree species selection in order to ensure Salt Lake City’s urban forest continues to grow.

Learn more about requesting a tree planting in your park strip here.

See Urban Forestry’s suggested tree species here.

You can hear more about the windstorm damage and Urban Forestry’s goals in this interview with Urban Forestry Director Tony Gliot:

Wind Storm Clean Up 

The wind storm response has required many of Salt Lake City’s teams, along with sister cities and state agencies like the Utah National Guard and Utah Department of Transportation, to work together to clear debris.

We appreciate theirs and everyone’s help to clear the streets. As of mid-October, we’re pleased to report that the debris cleanup phase is complete!

Salt Lake City’s Streets Division, Waste & Recycling Division, Parks Division, and Public Utilities Department have now completed their efforts to ensure our roadways, sidewalks, and houses are safe from debris and that the materials are properly collected.

City crews cleared an estimated total of 7,114 tons of storm debris through curbside collection. Additionally, 2,530 tons of green waste was collected from the brown bins in September (we estimate approximately 1,300 tons could be attributed to the storm).

Salt Lake City teams have now moved on to street sweeping, removing and remediating City-owned tree stumps, and assessing sidewalk damage throughout the city.

If you have any remaining debris like small branches, leaves, or other green waste, please utilize your brown compost containers as much as possible. Remember that you can request up to two extra compost containers almost any time of the year– for storm cleanup, fall leaf removal, or spring/summer pruning and weeding– while supplies last.

If you have questions about the cleanup or need additional assistance, call the Waste & Recycling Division at 801-535-6999.

Salt Lake City’s crews have worked tirelessly over the past 6 weeks in responding to this storm. We’re very grateful for your patience and collective efforts to get Salt Lake City back on track!

Updates about windstorm related cleanup can be found at https://www.slc.gov/wind-damage-faqs/.

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