More effort needed to save trees from destruction

January 31, 2023

In the name of environmental stewardship, Delaware has jumped on the California bandwagon to end the sale of gasoline-powered cars after 2035. Lewes is banning the use of gasoline-powered lawn equipment, and Rehoboth Beach is looking to follow suit.

So why, then, does Sussex County allow developers to destroy thousands of trees each year as land is cleared to make way for more homes?

According to The Nature Conservancy, trees benefit us – and the environment – in many ways beyond their natural beauty.

Through photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and store it in their wood. The Nature Conservancy estimates that smarter management of trees, plants and soil nationwide could reduce carbon dioxide equivalent to taking 57 million cars off the road.

Trees provide shade, acting like natural air conditioners, but consuming no electrical energy.

Trees also remove pollutants and sediments from rainfall and slowly release the water back into waterways and underground aquifers. That’s important not only for our supply of drinking water, but also for flood management.

Finally, large stands of trees and forests provide habitat for wildlife. Those who complain about deer devouring landscaping and other wildlife foraging for food should remember that they’re doing so only because their natural habitats have been destroyed.

I have seen small forests in Sussex County leveled for no reason other than to allow developers to squeeze more homes onto building sites. Buffer zones, when required and enforced, are merely aesthetic, and are no substitute for a requirement that a specific number of existing trees be retained.

Ironically, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control awards grants to plant trees even as Sussex County permits their large-scale destruction. Isn’t it time to do the smart thing and save the trees we already have?

Peter A. Harrigan
Rehoboth Beach
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