The nation’s two biggest cities are both trying to add a million trees to their urban forests via similarly named projects: Million Trees LA and Million Trees NYC. And as with all good green efforts, the tree-friendly initiatives keep collecting critiques.

The latest such critique comes fro LA Weekly’s blog LA Daily, which complains about the snail’s pace by which L.A.’s Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s planting project’s moving. L.A. Daily’s Steven Mikulan’s peeved that NYC’s project seems to be planting more quickly than L.A.’s: “At L.A.’s current planting rate Mayor Villaraigosa would not only be long out of City Hall by the time the millionth tree is put in the ground, but also out of the governor’s mansion as well, should he end up there.”

Of course, faster doesn’t mean better. It seems Villaraigosa’s project slowed its pace quite a bit after earlier critics complained the project was trying to move too fast. The city was giving away trees to Angelenos who signed pledge cards promising to plant and care for the trees but doing no follow up to make sure these tree seedlings were actually planted — a fact that the Los Angeles Times pointed out in September 2007. In that article, local tree-friendly nonprofits like North East Trees and TreePeople advised a more slow and steady, less numbers-driven approach to tree planting.

Counting up to a million trees seems an inherently difficult and inaccurate task, since the tally relies in part on unverified self-reporting of newly planted trees by individual residents and groups. Which is to say that tree planting projects can’t be evaluated by official numbers alone, as LA Daily’s doing.

That’s not to say that Million Trees NYC — which launched about a year after Million Trees LA did — isn’t doing better than its west coast counterpart. NYC’s made some amazing tree-friendly strides, from getting Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland to pitch in $1 million towards the project to creating new city zoning laws that makes tree planting mandatory.

To end this post on a less critical, more sanguine note: Perhaps the concurrent million tree efforts are encouraging some friendly eco-competitive spirit. Are there tree planting efforts happening in your ‘hood?

Images: Courtesy Million Trees LA and Million Trees NYC

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