In May, our Decatur City Council voted to allow a logger to harvest city-owned trees. This is the second logging contract agreed upon by our city in less than a year, instigated in both cases by the logging company. The logger argued that mature trees targeted were nearing the end of their lifespans, and that we should harvest them from this undeveloped property so we can get some use from them ($25,000 for the most recent contract, not yet started).
The Macon County Community Environmental Council strongly objects to these arguments. The natural lifespans of the targeted trees are counted in hundreds of years - they are mature, but nowhere near natural death. Also, the mature trees targeted are currently performing valuable ecosystem services for the City of Decatur, even if we don’t notice.
Data from the U.S. Forest Service show that trees of the size targeted by this logging within the city have tremendous economic value besides their aesthetic value. Trees save cities thousands a year in reduced costs for public health, storm water management, energy savings, prevention of soil erosion, and other services.
Each mature tree’s services are worth about $450 per year compared to our city making a one-time profit of about $220. These 100-plus trees targeted for harvest remove an average 53 tons of carbon dioxide per year, 430 pounds of other air pollutants that result in asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and catch 139,000 gallons of water per year, reducing run-off into Lake Decatur watershed. The evaporation from the leaves of a single mature tree has the cooling effect of 10 room-size air conditioners working 20 hours a day. And, perhaps most importantly, one mature white or red oak will produce enough oxygen for at least four people.
We must stop the logging.
Dr. Judy Parrish, Chair of Macon County Community Environmental Council and Plant Ecologist, Millikin University