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Spotlighting green initiatives

As the nation celebrates Earth Day today, some environmental activists got a head start Thursday as they turned Niagara Square into a showcase for green initiatives.

More than a dozen exhibitors showcased everything from energy-efficient light bulbs and "green" home construction, to steps that are being taken to turn old tires into parking lot speed bumps.

Folks from the Tifft Nature Preserve were on hand to spread information about "Buffalo's backyard wilderness," while other environmental advocates passed out tree saplings and promoted animal rights.

Another participant was Buffalo ReUse, a nonprofit group that dismantles properties using "green" environment-friendly demolition procedures and then sells the parts.

State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, R-Buffalo, talked about environmental protection efforts that are under way in Albany. Grisanti heads the Senate's Environmental Conservation Committee.

Thursday's ceremony was capped by a tree-planting across the street from City Hall. A 12-foot crab apple tree was planted near a memorial off South Elmwood Avenue that honors Samuel Manning Welch, a colonel in the Spanish-American War.

The efforts were a prelude to Earth Day, a national observance being held today to focus awareness on the environment.

Only two days earlier, the Common Council adopted a resolution urging the city to implement a "treebate" program. It would provide financial incentives to property owners who plant trees.

Trees reduce storm-water runoff into sewer systems, reduce greenhouse gases and cut down on erosion, according to sponsors Michael J. LoCurto of the Delaware District and David A. Rivera of the Niagara District. The Council wants the city to consider a "treebate" program pioneered in Portland, Ore., that gives property owners credits on their sewer bills in return for planting trees.

"I like that idea," said Re-Tree WNY Chairman Paul D. Maurer when asked by The Buffalo News about the Council initiative.

Maurer said there is a pressing need for more tree plantings in the city, noting that there are still 12,000 trees that have yet to be replaced that were lost during the surprise October snowstorm in 2006.

"There are a lot of people who want trees," Maurer said. "Maybe this type of incentive would be a good thing."

Mayor Byron W. Brown was not present to comment on whether his administration would pursue the "treebate" program. Brown had been scheduled to speak at the Enviro-Fair, but organizers learned at the start of the event that the mayor couldn't attend.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com