I have read with interest the articles and editorials on Baltimore's tree decline and the laudable tree re-planting efforts ("Speak for the trees," March 3). Forty years ago I observed that most of the trees on Baltimore streets were old. Today, with far fewer trees, it is still the old ones that are doing the work. Why is this after so much tree planting effort in all these decades? Because planting is only one step in establishing a tree.

The right trees need to be used. A century ago when there was greater success, they used elms and sycamores as these can withstand street conditions the best and provide the "cathedral" of shade we once had. Today, with disease-resistant varieties of both available, there is no reason not to be planting these primarily. The average life span of a newly-planted urban tree in the U.S. today is seven years.

Why so poor a result? In addition to correct species selection, all young trees need food, water and early pruning of lower branches. The pruning for the first few years needs to be included in the pricing of each new tree. Residents must water young trees especially during droughts. And of course they must be fed.

With the state government intent on limiting appropriate feeding in addition to the other weaknesses listed above, I am afraid that the trees are doomed, unless the state sees the light that will allow us to see the green.

Joseph Clisham, Baltimore

The writer is a former chairman of the Baltimore City Forestry Board.