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Attention: Urban and Community Forestry
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Urban and Community Forestry

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The Forest Service supports projects and research related to a diverse array of urban and community forestry issues. The following categories contain examples and links to more information about projects related to climate change, urban sustainability, the benefits of urban trees and parks, biophysical and social science research, as well as national and local programs.

Climate Change

Local Government Climate Roadmap: ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability (formerly the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) is crafting a process for engaging cities and local governments in climate policy and action, making links among local, regional, national, and international efforts towards mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Climate Action Blueprint: Climate Communities and ICLEI USA have published a report, "Empowering Local Government Climate Action: Blueprint for President Obama and 111th Congress," and are working to create a strong portfolio of climate solutions - including use of green infrastructure (community forestry, green roofs, and parks and open space) to reduce carbon emissions.

Greenhouse Warming and Landscape Care: Climate change is one of the few truly planetary processes that influence the assessments and actions of governments and of everyday citizens. Principles and practices of ecological landscaping fit well with concern about the effects of climate change. Other Northern Research Station publications on urban forests and climate change.

Urban sustainability

Green Infrastructure: Strategic conservation planning using a green infrastructure approach focuses on how to identify the best lands to conserve and the best lands to accommodate development, in order to help communities balance environmental and economic goals through strategies that lead to smarter, sustainable land uses. The Green Infrastructure Community of Practice is a collaborative network of organizations and agencies that are actively involved in promoting and/or implementing the green infrastructure approach to strategic conservation.

Planning the Urban Forest:This report, prepared by the American Planning Association (APA) in collaboration with the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and American Forests (AF), and supported by the U.S. Forest Service, addresses the need for planners to adopt a green infrastructure approach and presents the technical means to incorporate trees into planning. Find out how communities can develop urban forestry programs to capture the social and environmental benefits of trees. Urban forestry professionals and advocates will learn how to interface with the urban planning process to maximize green infrastructure and reduce gray infrastructure costs. Thirteen case studies illustrate best practices in planning for urban and community forestry.

To order online, http://myapa.planning.org/APAStore/Search/Default.aspx?p=3913

Community Trees: A Living Investment: This high-resolution DVD series promotes the value of trees in our lives and in our communities using scientific research and citizen testimonials.

Protecting and Developing the Urban Tree Canopy:This important new publication from the Conference of Mayors (USCM) is available on-line. The 135-city survey found 84% of cities view their tree activities as part of their overall sustainability and/or climate protection efforts. The report was commissioned by the USCM Community Tree Task Force currently co-chaired by Palatine (IL) Mayor Rita Mullins and Sacramento (CA) Mayor Heather Fargo.  The report was released at the Arbor Day Foundation's Partners in Community Forestry national conference on November 19.

Stormwater Management: Using Trees and Structural Soils to Improve Water Quality:We are excited to share a suite of technology transfer items resulting from an Urban & Community Forestry challenge grant, Development of a Green Infrastructure Technology that Links Trees and Engineered Soil to Minimize Runoff from Pavement, awarded in 2004 under the advisement of NUCFAC. This project was a collaborative effort between Virginia Tech, Cornell University, and the University of California at Davis. The website provides many resources such as a BMP design manual, a presentation for explaining how this system works to your municipality or business, and many other resource links.

Tree Owner's Manual: One common issue facing our urban forests is the fact that trees are dying prematurely. Many are planted improperly, setting them up for failure. Many do not receive regular maintenance. And few are adequately protected during construction projects. To help remedy this issue, the Forest Service has created this Tree Owner’s Manual.

Urban Forest Sustainability: Urban forests require healthy vegetation, community-wide support, and comprehensive management. The goal of a sustainable urban forest is to maintain a maximum level of net environmental, ecological, social, and economic benefits over time. This article seeks to define sustainability and apply that framework to understanding urban forests. (download the report in PDF) 

Smart Growth for Clean Water: Stormwater runoff and non-point source pollution threaten water quality in communities across America. This EPA report identifies five smart growth approaches that can improve water quality: land conservation, waterfront brownfields revitalization, urban and community forestry, low impact development, and watershed management.

Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities:This ICMA report focuses on how to adapt smart growth strategies to rural communities. Funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, the report examines the challenges rural communities face, including rapid growth at metropolitan edges, declining rural populations, and the loss of working lands. It highlights smart growth strategies that can help guide rural growth while preserving the unique rural character of existing communities.

Rainwater as a Resource: This report recently published by Tree People shares case studies on successful use of sustainable stormwater management practices.

Impacts of urban growth on forests: This article by US Forest Service researchers suggests that with the growth projected through 2050, more regional planning and management may be needed to sustain forest products and ecosystem services required by a growing urban population. (download the report in PDF) 

Urban environmental influence: This article by US Forest Service researchers discusses the unique set of challenges forests near urban communities face and how these effects will intensify as communities grow in area, population, and complexity. (download the report in PDF) 


Calculating the benefits of urban trees

Itree: is a publicly-available software suite that provides urban and community forestry analysis and benefits assessment tools to communities of all sizes as well as state forestry agencies, municipal foresters, non-profit organizations, commercial arborists, environmental consultants, planners, and others interested in their community forests.

STRATUM: is a street tree management and analysis tool for urban forest managers that uses tree inventory data to quantify the dollar value of annual environmental and aesthetic benefits: energy conservation, air quality improvement, CO2 reduction, stormwater control, and property value increase.

UFORE: is a computer model used by managers and researchers to quantify urban forest structure and function. Using field and meteorological data, UFORE calculates forest attributes (species composition and diversity, diameter distribution, tree health, etc.) as well as forest functions and values related to tree effects on air pollution, greenhouse gases and global warming, pollen, and building energy use.

CITYgreen: is a powerful GIS application for land-use planning and policy-making. The software conducts complex statistical analyses of ecosystem services and creates easy-to-understand maps and reports. CITYgreen calculates dollar benefits based on specific site conditions.


Benefits of urban parks

Changing the world one block at a time: The annual "National Night Out" is an opportunity for residents to take to their neighborhood parks and streets for socializing, music, and food. It has been touted by the Project for Public Spaces as not only a practical method for fighting crime, but also a great community-building tool that can address other environmental and social issues.

City park facts: Through an annual survey, the Center for City Park Excellence maintains the nation's most complete database of park facts for the largest 60 US cities. With the help of CCPE data, you can see how your city compares to others. The database includes information on park size, facilities, age and history, spending, staffing, and usership.

Philadelphia Park Value Report: This report includes enumerations on the economic value of the city's park system for seven different factors - clean air, clean water, tourism, direct use, health, property value, and community cohesion.  Based on the analysis, in 2007 the park system of Philadelphia provided the city with revenue of $23.3 million, municipal savings of $14.5 million, resident savings of $1.28 billion and a collective increase of resident wealth of $729 million.

Designing great urban park systems: Parks help define our cities' character and livability. The Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence works to assure that every urban dweller has a high-value park within reasonable proximity and that every park adds value to its surrounding community.

Health benefits of parks: Intended as a tool for open space professionals and advocates, this paper makes the case for parks, trails, and greenways as a sound community investment because they encourage exercise, improve social and psychological health, aid childhood development, and help build healthy, stable communities.


Biophysical research

Urban Tree Utilization and Why it Matters:Utilization of urban trees for wood and paper products is still in its infancy. However, the idea is drawing more attention from researchers, community officials, arborists, tree care firms, and wood-using industries including bio-energy producers. This report by Dovetail Partners, Inc. addresses big questions related to the amount of wood in urban areas, constraints to utilizing urban wood, viable examples of urban tree utilization industries, and what role bio-energy can play in urban tree utilization.

Urban Forest Health Monitoring: This pilot program provides field data on urban forests throughout the US to assess their status, how they are changing, and what factors might lead to additional changes in forest structure, function, and health.

Disposable Landscapes: Whether we are a traditionalist or on the cutting edge of landscape care, we need to take a deep breath and think about what we are trying to achieve, before we select a specific treatment or practice for tree care.

Are Trees Long-Lived?: Trees and tree care can capture the best of people's motivations and intentions. Trees are living memorials that help communities heal at sites of national tragedy, such as Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center. We mark the places of important historical events by the trees that grew nearby even if the original tree, such as the Charter Oak in Connecticut or the Wye Oak in Maryland, has been lost.

Biogeochemistry and Landscape Fertility: Choosing sustainable and efficient practices to manage urban and community landscapes can be made a little easier by understanding how the natural environment functions... How do natural forests and grasslands continue to grow and be healthy without fertilization?

Humus and Soil Fertility: Humus is a Latin word, meaning on or in the ground, but what is humus in the context of tree and landscape care? Is humus the same as soil organic matter? With the increased emphasis on biologically-based products for sustainable landscapes and tree care, the sources and quality of humus products have greatly increased in recent years.

Tree Rings and the Local Environment:The amount of wood produced by a tree each year depends on tree condition, genetic programming, and growing conditions. Tree rings are annual growth layers seen in cross section. Reading this article, you will be able to: define tree rings and describe how they are formed, explain the types of information that can be gathered from tree ring records and why they are useful, and describe the science of dendrochronology and the importance of crossdating in assigning tree ring calendar years. CEUs for this article apply to Certified Arborist, Utility Specialist, Municipal Specialist, Tree/Worker Climber, and the BCMA science category. [NEW!]


Social science research

Public response to the roadside landscape: Research continues to show that people prefer landscaped roadsides are willing to pay more for goods and services in well landscaped malls. Redevelopment and roadside management guidelines are proposed based on the research results, with implications for the economics of local communities.

Connection between ADD and green play settings:Contact with nature is related to attention in both children and adults. This study revealed that the "greener" a child's play area, the less severe his or her attention deficit symptoms, indicating an opportunity for urban forestry to contribute to youth health and well being in cities.

Coping with poverty: This study of urban public housing residents found that green space can make life's demands seem more manageable by enhancing residents' effectiveness and reducing mental fatigue. Residents living in buildings without nearby green spaces reported experienced problems as more severe and less able to be solved.

Influence of nature on creating neighborhood social ties: This study suggests that the use and quality of common spaces in inner cities may play an important role in the growth of community and neighborhood ties. The presence of vegetation leads to greater use of common spaces, informal social contact, and a sense of safety and adjustment among residents.

Influence of trees on retail and shopping behavior: Trees make business districts more pleasant places, yet long-term care and maintenance is needed to gain the most benefit from trees in downtown business centers. Are the returns worth the costs? This fact sheet summarizes the positive response of shoppers and visitors to trees, and potential economic gains.

Link between lifestyle behavior and urban vegetation: This study of Baltimore MD questions the exclusive use of income and education as the standard variables to explain variations in vegetation cover in urban ecological systems, suggesting that lifestyle behavior is a better indicator. Management of urban vegetation can be improved by developing marketing strategies that address underlying motivations for and participation in local land management.

Nature and crime in economically distressed communities:The presence of nature may reduce levels of fear and actual outbursts of aggressive and violent behavior. This study found that the greener were an urban building's surroundings, fewer crimes - both violent crimes and property crimes - were reported.


Selected national and local programs

Living Memorials Project: The resonating power of trees is used to bring people together and to create lasting, living memorials to the victims of September 11, their families, communities, and the nation. This project supports community-driven efforts that remember those who died ad those who served others, while also memorializing an event that was significant worldwide.

More Kids in the Woods:More Kids in the Woods is a $1.5 million cost share program encouraging programs across the nation that engage children in nature and science education, environmental ethics, and give opportunities to get outside and learn about their local ecosystems.

National Grove of State Trees: The concept of a state tree was born from both the recognition of and a sense of loss of the historical and cultural significance of native trees following the rapid industrial and agricultural expansion at the beginning of the 20th century. The 30 acre Grove of State Trees is a display of trees representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Urban Treehouse: Urban Treehouses are simple, environmental education structures built outdoors in the city. Developed and operated by partnerships consisting of government agencies, businesses, community groups, and nonprofit organizations, there are five treehouses in Washington DC, Atlanta, Portland, Salt Lake City, and Milwauke.

US Forest Service
Last modified: June 09, 2014