Of all the attractions Charlotte, North Carolina has to offer, its towering trees are one of greatest lures to the Queen City. Boasting one of the most expansive tree canopies in the country, Charlotte has good reason to protect its most treasured natural resource.
This community asset didn't come about just by chance. Thousands of trees in Charlotte were planted between 1895 and 1920, and as they grew, so did Charlotte. A century later, surging urban growth and an aging tree canopy put Charlotte's 47 percent urban tree cover at risk, but there was another problem: 80 percent of the city's urban forest was on private land.
So, in 2014, the City of Charlotte launched a Tree Canopy Preservation Program as part of its tree ordinance to address these challenges. The program requires developers and property owners to save a certain percentage of tree cover on their properties or make a payment to the Tree Canopy Preservation Program. The city uses funds from the program to buy private plots of land throughout the community to protect trees and then donates development rights and conservation easements to local organizations. Through the program, Charlotte has been able to protect 272 acres of land filled with trees to offset areas undergoing development.
In addition to presevering its urban forest, the city needed support for re-planting to reach the goal of 50 percent tree coverage by 2050. So they partnered with TreesCharlotte, the city's premier nonprofit tree-planting organization. TreesCharlotte would become the key planting partner to help reach the goal.
Charlotte's Tree Canopy Preservation Program paved the way for collaboration between the city and local organizations and has gained tremendous community support. It has also changed how the city does business.
The Tree Canopy Preservation Program is an example of the creativity and vigor that sprouts when a community comes together for the love of trees.
For demonstrating leadership and advancing forestry public policy, in creating community engagement, the Arbor Day Foundation presents the 2019 Champion of Trees Award to the City of Charlotte.