If The Lorax lived in southern Nevada about 70 years ago, the man who speaks for the trees would have been pretty silent. There are, maybe, one or two indigenous trees in Clark County.
But over the years, people have moved here and planted trees, making the Las Vegas Valley a surprisingly green place.
In fact, according to Dr. David Howlett, who runs the Urban Forestry Program at the Nevada Division of Forestry, Clark County has more varieties of trees than New York City.
He said there are only 50 or 60 different species of trees in New York City, because they have so many more native trees.
However, because so many people from around the country and the world brought their beloved trees to Southern Nevada when they moved here, there are hundreds of different species in the Las Vegas Valley.
"We've had the opportunity to throw a lot of things against the wall to see what sticks and over 262 species have stuck and they've done well in Southern Nevada," Howlett said.
While a city full of trees doesn't come to mind for most people when they think of Las Vegas, compared to say Portland or Seattle, Howlett's program has counted over a hundred thousand trees on public property. He estimates there are the same number - or more - on private property.
And this does not include trees in mountainous areas.
Howlett also says that trees can fight drought, and has pointed to innovative planning at Las Vegas golf courses – which have managed to cut water usage by planting more trees.
But getting that benefit can depend on the kind of tree that you plant. Trees that are native or have adapted to the hot, dry climate - like acacia or palo verde - will help, while others will add to the problem.
"There are species out there that some people are still using that really do suck up a lot of water," Howlett said.
He pointed out that trees that naturally grow in river bottoms like cottonwoods or willows are not appropriate to plant in an area that is not receiving natural water.
"It's hard to be a tree in Southern Nevada," Howlett said.
Trees are lovely to look at and nice to sit under in the heat of the summer, but now scientists and conservationists are actually calculating how much they add to the economy.
Howlett said trees protect areas from storm water; collect carbon dioxide out of the air, bringing down greenhouse gases in what is known as carbon sequestration; save energy; improve curb appeal and air quality - all of which adds about $3.9 million to the economy.
Dr. David Howlett, head of Urban Forestry at the Nevada Division of Forestry
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