Close to Home: Colorado’s Urban Wildlife

Roberts Rinehart, 1990

Edited by Frederick R. Rinehart and Elizabeth A. Webb

From my essay “The Urban Forest”:

” heard a chain-saw engine snarl the other morning and knew without going outside to look that the sound heralded the end for the big old silver maple at the corner. The large blue X spray-painted on its silvery trunk meant that the Boulder city forester’s crew had given it the death sentence. It’s once-graceful limbs were hollow and broken, the rot-brown innards revealed by gaping holes. The tree had become a liability rather than an asset. 

Silver maples, the shaggy-barked trees whose arching branches cast dappled shade over so many older Front Range neighborhoods, were commonly planted at the turn of the century because of their speedy growth and spreading form. The resultant canopy of tall old trees with outstretched branches is a grant sight, lending a gracious character to the neighborhoods it shelters. Mapleton Hill, for instance, one of Boulder’s Victorian-era neighborhoods, is named for its profusion of graceful silver maples. 

These old maples, together with thousands of other trees along Colorado’s Front Range, form the Denver-Boulder metropolitan area’s vast urban forest, the collection of trees and other plants growing along city streets, in yards, in parks and in open spaces. Although ‘urban forest’ at first sounds like an oxymoron, it is not. City and community vegetation may not be ‘wild,’ since it is largely the product of planned plantings, but collectively these plants comprise a forest. Like other forest communities, the urban forest plays a key role in its ecosystem: It interacts with and affects local climate, wildlife populations, air quality, water quality and quantity and human behavior. ….