How can we keep community forests thriving? Invest in state U&CF programs.

By Keith Wood

It is estimated that 138 million acres of trees make up community forests in cities and towns across the United States. These trees offer direct benefits to more than 220 million people – or 83% of the US population.

Urban forests make up 39% of the country’s tree cover and provide critical green infrastructure and countless benefits to communities and their residents, including $ 18.3 billion in annual cost savings related to reducing air pollution, energy use and greenhouse gases. The community tree roof also helps mitigate the effects of extreme weather and climate change, boosts home values ​​and tax revenues by up to 15% and provides shade, capture and filtering of storm water and a sense of well-being.

State-run Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF) programs help maintain healthy trees and forests in our communities by providing critical assistance to those responsible for creating and managing urban and community forest resources.

In addition to state-owned U&CF programs, there is a federal U&CF program located within the USDA State and Private Forest Service mission area. This federal program is funded by Congress through the annual budget allocation process and is administered by state forest agencies. For a number of countries, the dollars of the U&CF federal program are absolutely essential for providing U&CF assistance and services to communities. In each state, forest agencies match the U&CF federal dollars at least 2-to-1.

Growing, selecting, planting, maintaining and removing trees can be very expensive. A key goal of urban forest management programs is to maximize the benefits that trees provide over time, while minimizing maintenance costs. After all, cities and towns want to realize a positive net rate of return on investment in planting and caring for trees.

While many communities are able to budget and care for publicly owned trees, often times privately owned trees – which can make up up to 80% of a community’s urban forest – do not receive the same level of care. As a result, many privately owned trees are exposed to age, drought stress, insects and diseases and other environmental stressors more often and more quickly.

Six photographs depicted urban and community forestry

Projects undertaken with the support of the 2021 Urban Forest Resistance Grant in Montana, Kansas, Minnesota, Vermont, and Puerto Rico show how state forest agency programs are helping to minimize maintenance costs and maximize benefits from cross-border urban forests of ownership. NASF has also profiled other U&CF state initiatives in Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Virginia, Oregon, California, Wisconsin, and Maine.

Every country has a U&CF program. And you can rest assured that as more tools and information sources become available – such as the Environmental Justice Examination and Mapping Tool, the Economic and Climate Justice Examination Tool, the urban heat island index maps and the Tree Equity results – U&CF state programs will continue to provide Planting of trees and tree care assistance to the most needy neighborhoods.

Interested in learning more about U&CF and all its benefits? See a linked page above or contact NASF U&CF Committee staffer Keith Wood.

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