Tree Planting and Preservation

Winchester forest

Trees are Important and Need Our Help

The following information and statements were compiled by Winchester's Trees Working Group, which is a joint working group of the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Climate Action Advisory Committee, with staff support from the Town Planner and Sustainability Director. Please note that any statements herein supporting changes to Town bylaws, regulations or policies are attributable to the Trees Working Group and not to any other Town board, committee or staff.

Here are some key reasons why tree planting and preservation should be a priority for Winchester:

  • We all delight in Winchester’s abundance of lovely mature trees. Trees provide many functions essential for our personal and environmental health.
  • These trees are a large part of how Winchester feels and how Winchester looks.
  • They are integral to our lived environment. And their future is very much at risk.
  • We are losing our tree canopy, and we need your help in addressing this challenge.
  • Our community’s tree canopy, which constitutes our Urban Forest, is composed of two categories of trees: public shade trees and trees on private lots. Both are at risk but for different reasons. Each will require different solutions to address those risks.
  • Public shade trees are protected by State and Town Bylaw. Their preservation and renewal is limited in practice and needs to become part of an articulated, Town-wide strategy.
  • Trees on private lots are for the most part unprotected. For example, the practice of tear-downs leave the trees on such lots fully unprotected and they are frequently uniformly removed. These trees must also be considered in a Town-wide strategy. Developers should be required to provide a tree impact statement and plan as part of their initial filing.
  • Trees’ role in addressing climate change is well-appreciated, and that value is lost when our trees are lost.
  • As a Town, we need to urgently consider what steps we will take to ensure the preservation and renewal of our trees so that Winchester is at least as leafy tomorrow as it is today.

The Problem

We are losing our tree canopy, for the following reasons:

  • Cutting down trees. Indiscriminate cutting and cutting when pruning will do.
  • Development. Tear downs and lot ‘scraping.’
  • Aging. Trees get old and die and become hazardous or too big for their location.
  • Environmental hazards such as wind and drought and heat.
  • Replacement trees are years from offering the multiple benefit of mature trees, ranging from aesthetics to climate change benefits.

The Solution

We can turn this around! Here are some key solutions to the problem of tree canopy loss:

  • Educate residents and contractors about tree health.
  • Require developers to submit a tree protection and replacement plans to be approved by the Town.
  • Town-wide rules addressing the cutting of trees above a certain size.
  • Town-wide tree canopy improvement strategy, including private lots, public trees, and conservation spaces.
  • Advocate for and actively seek out new funding sources.
  • Plant more trees!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Winchester’s Urban Forest?
A: All trees that grow in Winchester on both public and private land.

Q: Why is Winchester’s Urban Forest Important?
A: Winchester’s trees are essential to our quality of life

- Their beauty has long defined Winchester’s character and appeal.
- Their leaves remove greenhouse gases from the air.
- Their roots retain heavy stormwater runoff and hold back soil.
- Their canopies provide shade for our homes and streetscapes, cooling our town, as well as habitat for a rich biodiversity of birds and pollinators.

Q: How Does Winchester Care For and Protect Its Trees on Public Land?
A: Winchester’s DPW cares for all public trees, under the direction of the Tree Warden.

- Maintenance and Healthcare: pruning for safety, treating for disease, watering.
- Removals: taking down dying trees, and trees in the way of public work projects.
- Replacement: scheduling tree plantings to fill in the gaps.
- New Plantings: expanding our Urban Forest in locations that provide the greatest public benefit.
- Enforcement: imposing fines on those who remove trees on Town-owned land without permission.

Q: Why are so many Public Trees Being Cut Down in Town?
A: Many of Winchester’s public trees are more than 80 or 100 years old

- At the end of their natural life span.
- Weakened by pests, pollution and drought.
- In the way of Town construction projects.

Q: Does Winchester Protect Its Private Trees?
A: Largely, no. Winchester bylaws may provide some protection for trees on private land when: a Subdivision application, a Special Permit is filed, Site Plan review is required, or a Notice of Intent are filed.

Q: Why are so many Trees on Private Land Being Cut Down in Winchester?
A: Trees are weakened by age, pests, poor soil, and drought. Some are cut down due to property owners' preferences, and some due to new development.

- Trees are removed to make way for new construction.
- Construction vehicles crush trees’ roots which causes tree death within a few years.
- Some lots are “clear-cut” of all the trees

Q: What is the Impact of Clear-Cutting a lot?
A: Removing all trees and their roots from a property has far reaching negative impacts.

- Stormwater runoff erodes the site and flows unimpeded into other down-hill properties, bringing floods and silt.
- Wildlife habitat and diversity of plantings are destroyed.
- Property values decline due to the loss of shade and natural beauty and due to increased water damage.

Q: Why Should Private and Public Trees be Planted every year?
A: The goal is a tapestry of trees of different ages and species.

- A newly planted tree is not an equivalent replacement for a mature tree. A newly planted tree needs decades of growth before it can provide the benefits of an older tree.
- An Urban Forest with trees of all ages offers consistent benefits, as younger trees mature to succeed older trees.
- Allows for tree management– planting, maintenance, removal, and replacement—to be spread out over time.

Q: What Can I Do to Make a Difference? 
A: You can make a difference in these ways:
- Participate in our Town-Wide Tree Survey.
- Advocate for Tree Protection Bylaws.
- Vote for more funding for DPW tree accounts.
- Help research and write grants for outside funding.
- Learn how to best nurture trees on your land.
- Plant trees correctly and regularly water all newly planted trees.
- Stop damaging landscape maintenance methods.

Q: What Would Making a Difference Look Like?
A: It would look like this:

- Urban forest is expanded.
- Public trees well pruned, disease free, and replaced quickly.
- More shade for our streets, parks and homes.
- No clear-cutting of lots.
- Tree buffers between properties.
- Less flooding of down-hill homes.