DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Generations of American children have memorized these lines from the poet Joyce Kilmer - I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Well, people in Melbourne, Australia, are enjoying a variation of that thought. They're writing love letters to their city's trees.
GREENE: It began three years ago when Melbourne launched a project to restore their declining urban forest after years of drought.
MONTAGNE: The city developed a special website. It includes an interactive map providing information, such as the health and lifetime expectancy of every one of Melbourne's more than 77,000 trees.
ARRON WOOD: Each tree actually has an individual tree ID number and from there we assigned each tree an email address because we thought our residents could email us if there was an issue with the tree, if it had dropped a limb. If it was in a severe state of decline, they could tell us to come out and intervene.
GREENE: That's City Councillor Arron Wood, chair of Melbourne's environment committee. He says they did not anticipate what happened next.
MONTAGNE: The trees started getting love letters. Wood - nice name by the way...
MONTAGNE: ...Says the emails ranged from the sincere...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Dear elm, I was delighted to find you alive and flourishing because a lot of your family used to live in the U.K. but they all caught a terrible infection and died. Do be careful. And if you notice any unfamiliar insects, email an aboriculturist at once.
GREENE: Some were downright humorous.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Dear green leaf elm, I hope you like living at St. Mary's. Most of the time, I like it, too. I have exams coming up and I should be busy studying. You don't have exams because you are a tree.
MONTAGNE: And there were letters that were apologetic.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Dear London plane, my dog peed on you the other day - sincerest apologies.
GREENE: (Laughter) Wood says the trees have received thousands of letters.
MONTAGNE: And the trees write back, thanks to Wood's team. But even though the letters are warm and fuzzy and entertaining, Arron Wood says they're also helping.
WOOD: It's created a much greater ownership of the urban forest, and indeed, they play a real role in aiding us to do the job that we're charged with doing.
GREENE: Melbourne has since planted 12,000 new trees, and their project has been so successful, this month the city is hosting some 50 other local governments for a class on urban forestry.
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