The Battle to Save the Trees in 1961

In 1961, a Post author made a case to protect wooded parks from suburban sprawl.

Looking up at the full crowns of California Redwood trees.
Francesca Pianzola / Shutterstock

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In 1960, planners expected more than 25 million mostly suburban houses to be built over 15 years. Builders rushing to finish developments usually leveled all vegetation. A Post author offered a case for keeping the forest.

-From the January 28, 1961, issue of the Post.

A 35-foot oak or maple having a total leaf surface of about 4,000 square feet will evaporate more than 35 gallons of water during a summer day. By evaporation and deflection of the sun’s rays, a tree will reduce the heating effect of the sun on the area below it by as much as a half. But even more informative than figures is the experience of driving into a wooded park after dark in the summer. City streets, cooked to as high as 135 degrees by the sun, radiate heat all night long. In a tree-shaded area, the temperature drops with the sun.

When trees are saved, our dwellings seem to be part of their surroundings rather than invaders, we ourselves seem to gain a sense of belonging, of having roots. We even gain some of the serenity which is apt o be the scarcest commodity of all. Everything depends upon having a builder who cares, one who’d find it hard to live with himself if he were known for having loused up the countryside.

The first page of the Post article, The Battle to Save the Trees
Read “The Battle to Save the Trees” by Charlton Ogburn Jr. from the January 28, 1961, issue of the Post.

This article is featured in the January/February 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. This article is still timely and applies today; even more so. Trees are one of THE most important living things on the planet, with equal importance to animals and people. Unless a particular tree is unfortunately a victim of sickness or disease (which occasionally happens) and cannot be restored to health, than it should never be cut down.

    I can happily say I’ve seen examples of where roads and buildings have been built to accommodate beautiful old trees and the results have been wonderful and beautiful.


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