Your Views: Conservation is an equity issue

Your Views: Conservation is an equity issue
The 150-year-old oak tree by Parker Gray Stadium, named the "Witness Tree" by activists, was cut down by ACPS.(Photo/McArthur Myers)

To the editor:

As the president and CEO of America’s oldest forest conservation organization, I spend my days trying to help cities across America equitably protect and expand their precious tree cover as protection from climate change, a way to improve air and water quality and a source of better mental and physical health. Cities across America are finally seeing trees not as scenery, but as critical infrastructure that is needed in every neighborhood for climate action, climate justice and health equity.

So, it is nothing short of tragic that my own beloved hometown of Alexandria treats its tree cover like a speed bump on the way to becoming some kind of “Plano on the Potomac” that seems to please some of our elected officials and everyone in the development community while enraging city residents.

There are countless examples, but consider first the wanton destruction of the precious Witness Tree, under the cover of our COVID-19 lockdown and over strident citizen protest, just to put a snack bar right there amid the inappropriate redevelopment of Parker-Gray Stadium. That said a lot about our values.

Now we have the outrageous Taylor Run project, right in my own neighborhood, which proposes to level a mature forest that is providing countless environmental and community benefits, just so the city can claim bogus water quality credits. This project is so monstrous that it actually harms our city and the Chesapeake Bay in one fell swoop. No wonder it has helped trigger a wave of new candidates for city office.

We are running out of time to confront climate change, to deliver real equity and justice in our community, and to save the qualities that make Alexandria one of the most amazing places to live anywhere in our country. I call on our current city officials and staff, as well as all candidates for office, to commit to change course. We really can be “Eco-City Alexandria,” and our trees must be treated like precious assets to help us get there.

-Jad Daley, Alexandria