One of the summer’s most widely circulated urban forestry-related stories was about the TD Bank Group’s evaluation of the economic value of Toronto’s urban forest. TD Bank Group, which acts as a think tank as well as an advisory group of economists and has a full-time environmental economist on staff, is chaired by Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Craig Alexander.
In a great interview with Alexander on the Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) website, he said that his group found that for every dollar of maintenance, the trees are returning between $1.35 and $3.20 (a 220% return) in benefits. Alexander says, “It’s a good investment. We aren’t including things we can’t measure like the intangibles of being able to go to a park and enjoy the trees. This is a low ball number because you can’t measure everything.”
It’s thrilling for City of Toronto urban foresters and indeed urban foresters everywhere to get this kind of affirmation from economists from the second largest bank in Canada (eighth largest bank in the U.S.). In their capacity as a policy think tank, Alexander said his group of economists does research on the environment and that this is the first of their reports on “natural capital.” He says, “Economics measures GDP, but there is a lot that doesn’t get measured, including the value of the environment.”
In the ACTrees article, Alexander says, “The challenge we have on public policy and environmental issues is at the end of the day, you have to have a dollars and sense argument on your investment. This kind of data also really helps politicians and government officials to make decisions. Everyone is facing fiscal constraints… we need to economically appreciate what trees do. In the aggregate the numbers are really impressive.” This is something urban foresters have known for a long time, but coming from TB Bank’s Chief Economist, it will greatly add to this awareness among the populace.