The 21st Century is the first in human history where the majority of people live in urban areas. More than 80% of the U.S. population now lives in urban and urbanizing areas. How will our urban areas continue to meet society’s needs into the future? Improving the sustainability and livability of cities is a long-term challenge and goal across the U.S. and internationally. New knowledge, science-based tools, and interdisciplinary partnerships are needed to inform decision-making that achieves sustainable solutions as urban areas develop and expand, and as city leaders take a renewed interest in revitalizing the urban core.
Urban Natural Resources Stewardship is a priority research area for the Forest Service. R&D provides leading science and new technology to help cities manage, protect, and care for their natural resources in order to plan for a sustainable future. Forest Service urban research units and field offices are located throughout the United States. Together with partners, we provide information and tools for natural resource professionals, scientists, civic leaders, urban planners, landscape architects, water resource managers, homeowners and residents, schools, conservation groups, and many others.
Urban areas are areas that are densely populated and developed, encompassing residential, commercial, and other non-residential urban land uses. The U.S. Census Bureau identifies two types of urban areas: “urbanized areas” of 50,000 or more people, and “urban clusters” of 2,500-50,000 people. According to the 2010 Census, there are 486 urbanized areas and 3,087 urban clusters nationwide. For more information about our increasingly urbanized U.S. population, read this 2010 Census Brief.
Urban Natural Resources Stewardship is the management, protection, and care of natural resources in urban areas. Natural resources are often considered to be the “green infrastructure” of an urban landscape – natural areas such as forests and streams, as well as constructed elements such as urban parks, trails, street trees, community gardens, urban agriculture, and stormwater management features. A city’s natural resources improve air and water quality and provide a wide array of benefits to people and wildlife. Caring for the natural resources in cities and towns helps to create livable places — places where people want to live, work, and play.