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West Sacramento News-Ledger

Free Shade Tree Program Supports Biodiversity

Apr 24, 2024 10:21AM ● By Angela Underwood
A large shade tree in West Sacramento was planted to help canopy the city from rising heat temperatures. Photo courtesy of West Sacramento


WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - The role of urban tree canopies is unprecedented as temperatures continue to rise.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service reports that "the burning need to address harmful and often deadly heat waves is undeniable," stating "one powerful and simple solution is to plant more trees."

City arborist David Culbertson said West Sacramento's three-decade-old tree program continues to plant, protect, and preserve trees contributing to community health. The city's efforts play a crucial role in improving air quality, providing shade, and supporting biodiversity, according to Culbertson.

"The Tree Program was initiated to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare of our community through regulations that govern the planting and removal of trees," Culbertson said.

Culbertson said the program protects West Sacramento's history by limiting the removal of landmark or heritage trees, adding, "It also ensures the safe removal of trees that may pose a safety hazard to surrounding structures and people."

"One of the key objectives of the Tree Program is to improve West Sacramento's tree canopy and urban forest through the Free Shade Program," Culbertson said of the arrangement, which allows residents two shade trees per year.

West Sacramento

 West Sacramento has a free shade tree offered to every resident twice annually along with stakes and delivery. Photo courtesy of West Sacramento


The arborist said increasing the number of shade trees enhances the aesthetic appeal of West Sacramento neighborhoods and provides numerous environmental benefits. West Sacramento offers dozens of tree types, including Flowering Crabapple, Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar, Japanese Black Pine, and Scarlet Oak. 

Shade trees are delivered at the end of April, in conjunction with Arbor Day celebrations, and at the end of September. Cut-off dates for orders are a month before delivery: at the end of March for the April delivery and at the end of August for the September delivery.

"Apart from promoting the continued renewal of our urban forest through planting new trees, the Tree Program helps preserve the large trees that currently provide us with oxygen and shade," Culbertson said.

Residents require a tree permit to perform significant pruning or removal. Heritage trees with a circumference greater than 75" and Heritage oaks with a circumference greater than 50" need a permit to prune or remove, as well as street trees within 12.5 inches from the curb or street.

West Sacramento heritage trees

 West Sacramento requires a permit for the pruning or removal of heritage trees. Image courtesy of West Sacramento


For residents who may have removed trees due to "an imminent threat to public safety or infrastructure," officials ask that the issue be documented with photos to submit for a retroactive permit. Unless there is just cause or a permit to remove a West Sacramento tree, those who do so will be subject to fines or tree mitigation.

West Sacramento will only service private trees for emergencies, including imminent threats, and does not inspect trees on residential property unless it is for a pruning or removal request. However, West Sacramento will prune city trees in front of resident homes for visibility. City officials prune mature trees on a two- to three-year cycle, and less mature trees are pruned for clear visibility to ensure line-of-sight for signs, vehicles, pedestrians, and building clearance. 

"Through continued collaboration with residents, businesses, and local organizations, West Sacramento seeks to ensure that West Sacramento remains a green and vibrant place to live, work, and play," Culbertson said.

Residents can request to be part of the Free Shade Program or request a permit by visiting www.wsac.city/trees.

"Trees act as natural air purifiers, help mitigate heat by providing shade, and play a crucial role in supporting wildlife by providing habitats and food sources for birds, insects, and other animals," Culbertson said. "So, by protecting the health of our trees, we're also enhancing our own quality of life."

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