USMA Graduate’s Capstone Informs Senate Bill

Trees have become the focus of a city-wide effort to “adjust to the new normal” of prolonged drought and the subsequent hot temperatures we are all enduring again this summer in Los Angeles. This is why MA in Urban Sustainability graduate student Amanda Begley created her Capstone Project, “Tree Canopy Cover Targets and Urban Cooling: Policy Paper and Toolkit.”

Begley’s project was used by Senator Fran Pavley, 27th District, and her committee to inform Senate Bill 1294, “Community Climate and Drought Resilience Program of 2016,” which would give California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection the statutory authority to fund maintenance of California’s existing urban forest. “Many pieces (of information) and lots of writing went into creating the bill,” Begley said, “it wasn’t just my work, believe me.”

To create her toolkit—to be used by individual neighborhoods in establishing their tree canopies—Begley worked with Treepeople under the direction of Edith de Guzman, her Capstone advisor and Director of Research at Treepeople. It was important to develop a program that could be used neighborhood by neighborhood. “Some neighborhoods are under more stress than others,” Begley explained. “For example, Bel Air’s tree canopy is 50 percent, whereas the canopy in Wilmington is five percent or less. It’s hard to say what each city would look like after a canopy renovation. Each has to evaluate what would be the most effective thing they can do.” The average tree canopy is less than 15 percent in any neighborhood in any individual city nationwide.

Whether you’re driving, walking, riding your bike, or sitting at home in your living room, trees in your neighborhood will make you cooler, save vital dollars spent on air conditioning, stabilize the soil, and lessen the dramatic absorption of moisture caused by concrete, according to Treepeople.org.

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