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Las Vegas urban forest could be added to national tree tally

December 29, 2018

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas is known as a dry desert town but the city’s urban trees can be overlooked when competing for attention with the city’s flash and neon.

The U.S. Forest Service wants to inventory Las Vegas’ urban forest, identifying it as one of 100 U.S. metropolitan areas to eventually add to its annual national tree tally.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the Forest Service has tallied trees in rural parts of the country for more than 80 years but Congress in 2014 expanded the count to cities.

The Forest Service has inventoried a handful of cities, including Baltimore, Houston and Austin, Texas, and is working on about three dozen others. It’s unclear when the Forest Service will bring the count to Las Vegas because Congress has not yet fully funded the expanded program.

A state count in 2013 from the Nevada Division of Forestry tallied more than 117,000 trees from 262 species on public property in metro Las Vegas, Boulder City and Mesquite.

Unlike East Coast cities, the urban forest in Las Vegas is mostly man-made.

Mark Majewsky, a leader of the urban inventory for the Forest Service, said many people overlook city trees because they don’t resemble a “traditional forest.”

“But those trees still provide what we call ‘ecosystem services,’” he said.

That includes shade, cleaner air, flood abatement and increased property values.

The annual tree count involves the collection of samples from 200 locations to identify the health and types of trees in an area. The trees are checked again to note changes.

If the Forest Service completes a tree count in Las Vegas, the data will be publicly available and could be used for climate change research or landscape design.

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