Where would we be without trees?

Ah, the cooling shade they provide on hot summer days. Remember how they served as a home-base in your childhood games such as tag and hide and seek?

Trees and shrubs also enhance the look of our homes and neighborhoods. They also breathe — yes, breathe — providing cleaner air for us.

Our gas and diesel powered cars, trucks, boats and lawn equipment exhaust carbon dioxide fumes. Trees breathe in carbon dioxide, collecting (or sequestering) the carbon and releasing oxygen which is vital for human health.

Did you know that droughts weaken a tree’s ability to breathe? A recent study highlighted that the drought of 2000-04 here in our western United States was the worst drought in 800 years. The drought reduced the trees’ breathing capacity to 51 percent.

Wow! Imagine only having one of your two lungs to sustain your everyday life! I didn’t remember those as tough drought years, but with a little research, I was reminded that locally our water reservoirs never filled in 2001.

Careful water management by our water providers shielded those of us in the general population from water restrictions. Such reservoirs are essential for having enough drinking water and cool water for sewage treatment heat reduction, for the needs of our family and for our businesses.

In addition to providing shade and cooling, trees also provide habitat for bugs and birds, which are needed to pollinate plants and crops that supply food and support our economy; crops like blueberries, peaches, wine, vegetables and even clover for milk cows.

Many cities in our region invest your local tax revenue in building the local tree canopy, thereby protecting your community property value and community attraction. Utilities such as Clean Water Services, our Washington County sewer treatment and storm water agency, also support healthy tree canopies and tree planning through programs such as “Tree For All.”

Metro, your regional government, also has tree planting programs, as restoration and maintenance efforts at natural areas and stream banks support your clean water and clean air needs and values.

How about your yard and neighborhood? Do you have enough shade trees and bushes in your yard? Does your local park need plant improvements? Metro has many native plant guides to help you invest in plants that have double benefits for your family and healthy wildlife.

The Metro Council has also invested in the Nature in Neighborhood Restoration and Enhancement Grant program, providing financial assistance to groups working to improve local green areas that need more plants and trees. 

With autumn just around the corner, I hope that you will plant more trees and bushes, so that we can help ensure clean air for future generations. You can find more information on native plants, trees and grant programs at

Happy planting — and thanks for doing your part to make this a cleaner, greener better world.

Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington represents District 4, which includes northern Washington County, Cornelius, Forest Grove and Hillsboro.

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