When the first non-native settlers entered the Salt Lake Valley, there were few trees. They wanted shade fast, so they planted fast-growing trees. Some of the first city ordinances required the planting of street trees. Early Salt Lake City had an urban forest that was uniform, beautiful and remarkable, as described by early travel writers. As the short-lived trees died, longer-lived elms, oaks, sycamores and maples were planted in the missing teeth. Gradually, the urban forest changed to include a greater variety of ages, species and heights.

In the 20th century, many young students were sent home from school with tiny spruce and pine seedlings. Often, these conifers were planted by the front door without considering that they could grow to be 60 feet or taller. Conifers were also the choice for cemeteries due to their shallow root systems. Many of these large conifers fell in the recent windstorm, along with some lindens, maples and other trees with dense branches and leaves.

Many who witnessed the aftermath of fallen trees and property damage were astonished at the loss. In reality, an equal loss of trees has been happening cumulatively over time, just less visibly. In 20 years, I have seen approximately as much tree loss as in this 2020 storm, as we are not replacing trees at the same rate that we are removing them.

Those interested in planting new trees have valuable resources at their disposal. Urban Foresters and State Extension offices can recommend appropriate trees for your situation. Maybe wait until spring to replant, so there is time to make the best choice. With more thought and planning, we can plant not with a longing not for what has been, but what might be.

Esther Truitt Henrichsen, Salt Lake City