How Are Cities Strengthening Their Urban Forests?

How—and why—are cities across the U.S. strengthening their urban forests?

Urban Forests Case Studies, a recent report from American Forests offers thought-provoking profiles of urban forest initiatives in twelve cities.

Among the key themes, from cities as diverse as Austin and Atlanta, Denver and Detroit, Milwaukee and Washington, DC:

  • Increasingly, cities view urban forests as valuable, cost-effective tools for addressing expensive problems ranging from managing stormwater to reducing energy demands.
  • However, city leaders are typically more willing to fund tree planting than to fund the maintenance and management needed for public trees to truly appreciate in value and achieve a maximum return on investment.
  • Typically, less than 10% of the urban forest in a city is on public property.  Recognizing this, as part of their efforts to achieve tree canopy goals, more cities are regulating tree removals on private property, as well as providing incentives for tree planting on private property.
  • Cities see partnerships—involving citizens, government, businesses and nonprofits—as vital to achieving long-term urban forest objectives.

In Grand Rapids, the City, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, the Grand Rapids Urban Forestry Committee, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, neighborhood associations, businesses, and citizens are playing key roles in strengthening our urban forest. We face many daunting challenges, but we’re seeing evidence of success:

  • More than $750,000 in local, state and federal grants for urban forest efforts over the past three years
  • The City’s 2012 Excellence in Government award for its urban forestry work
  • A new level of community involvement achieved through Friends of Grand Rapids Parks’ tree planting and tree mapping events, tree tours, and online tree map.

And, coming soon, a new citizen forester program.  Stay tuned for news on this and other opportunities to help grow our urban forest!

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