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Is planting trees in Denver the natural thing to do?

Denver plans to double tree canopy coverage downtown, costing the city millions of dollars.

DENVER — The Downtown Denver Partnership released its annual report outlining a plan to try to double the percentage of tree canopy coverage in the coming years. 

But is Denver really supposed to have that many trees?

"There's a lot of things that make it less than ideal for trees," Mike Bone said.

He is a horticulturist and the curator of Steppe Collections for Denver Botanic Gardens. Bone said first, prior to people, trees never thrived on the land that Denver sits on.

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"We're smack dab in the middle of the Great North American Steppes," Bone said. "So, there's not a lot of trees that are native to this site."

Denver is supposed to be short grass prairie land with trees growing only near water because water is a problem here.

"The dry rain shadow of the Rockies makes it very difficult for trees to survive here," Bone said.

The climate is a factor too, he said. 

"Extremes of hot summers and cold winters and especially when the weather changes dramatically as it does from time to time," Bone said. 

Residents are also encouraged to plant trees to contribute to the efforts city-wide. Bone said homeowners should do research to find the right type of tree for their property. For instance, wide trees shouldn't be planted in small yards and trees that will grow mostly upward need to be free from obstructions.

"What impact is that tree going to impose in 15, 20, 30 years?" Bone said.

He also said winter is the time when trees need attention from people. Bone said people should wrap the trunks of young trees to protect them from the elements and that trees should be watered in the cold months during long dry spells.

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"I think people often forget to take care of their trees in winter and that's one of the struggles," Bone said.

The plan, along with efforts from Denver Parks and Recreation, will cost millions of dollars.

Though it may be a challenge in Denver, Bone said it's worth it financially and naturally to plant more trees no matter how much green it costs.

"They provide oxygen. They filter and clean the air and give people a sense of comfort," Bone said.

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