SHERIDAN — How do you put a value on trees?
You can measure parts of the tree — its height and girth, the number of square feet of shade it provides and maybe the amount of fruit it produces. Those measurements can all be quantified, despite their variability.
But how do you quantify the other properties that add to a tree’s worth? Perhaps you track the number of hours you spent swinging from its branches or the number of secrets you’ve whispered to its leaves while you climbed through its branches.
Recently, the city of Sheridan took on the challenge of inventorying its trees and what they are worth.
Sheridan Operations Superintendent Mathers Heuck on Monday gave an update to the Sheridan City Council on the process and what the city has accomplished in terms of managing its tree resources.
Trees can add 3-15 percent to home values, encourage shopping in areas with high quality tree canopies, reduce mid-block vehicle crashes and contribute to environmental health.
In 2008, city staff member Tom O’Leary led the effort for Sheridan to become a Tree City USA community by forming the Tree Board. The city earned the designation in 2009 and has maintained the status since.
“One great benefit is the educational resources the program has for city staff,” Heuck said. “Being in the program also helps secure grants because it demonstrates Sheridan’s commitment to trees.”
Zack Houck, a member of the city’s Tree Board, spoke about the accomplishments of the board in the presentation to the Sheridan City Council.
He also spoke about an assessment completed by a contract arborist — Inner Tree, LLC — for the city. The work of the contractor included a tree assessment and the beginnings of a management plan.
“They’ve inventoried the trees,” Houck said, comparing the process to knowing what is in a business’ warehouse. “You have to know what’s there before you can decide what to do with it.”
The inventory found no high-risk trees in need of removal, but did identify two-medium risk trees — one in the municipal cemetery and one at the municipal golf course — that will be removed this fall.
In total, the inventory counted 2,325 trees in Sheridan — or at least on city property. The numbers do not include trees on private property.
The highest value tree — a crab apple located in the cemetery — came in at $46,200.
The mean value of the trees came out to $4,053, but 13 trees were worth more than $30,000 apiece.
In total, the city calculated that its trees have a value of $9.23 million.
“There are several variables used to calculate the monetary value of a tree,” Heuck said. “The height, trunk diameter and canopy width play a big part, but the location, condition, environment and species are also part of the calculation.”
The assessment also noted how many of each kind of tree the city has. Houck noted that most communities try to avoid more than 10 percent of any species. That way, if a disease targets a specific kind of tree, a city’s entire inventory isn’t wiped out.
In Sheridan, 16.3 percent of trees are Colorado Spruce. Nearly 11 percent are Rocky Mountain Juniper; 10 percent are Green Ash and 10 percent are Eastern Cottonwood.
Each of the remainding species found during the assessment made up 8 percent or less of the entire canopy.
Now that the city has an inventory of its stock, Heuck said it will develop a management plan for the trees.
“The tree assessment allows us to take a strategic approach to citywide tree care,” Heuck said. “Now that we have a database, we can develop a comprehensive tree management plan that will help us to focus our resources in an optimal way.”