Street trees and forested areas in cities, towns and communities are more than amenities. Besides beauty, trees provide many practical benefits such as shade from summer sun, protection from winter wind, habitat for wildlife, reduced water, air and noise pollution, increased property values, and revitalized tourism and local business trade. But perhaps the greatest benefit is individuals and community groups working together to plant and preserve trees, and in the process, developing important conservation values and fostering community spirit.
With urban forests occupying 70 million acres in the United States and estimates that more than 80 percent of the population will live in urban areas by the year 2000, urban and community forestry programs play an important role in enhancing community vitality and the quality of life for many Americans.
Increased awareness of the benefits provided by trees has stimulated public interest and financial support for urban and community forestry programs and tree planting and care projects. Despite this, many urban forests are not thriving:
|Urban trees reach maximum potential for environmental benefits after age 30, but the average life-span of a downtown urban tree is less than 10 years.|
|Most cities are removing more trees than they are planting.|
|Thirty seven percent of cities practice "crisis management" responding to accidents, impending hazards, and complaints rather than implementing a systematic tree maintenance program.|
Urban Forest Health Needs Assessment Survey
To study this serious issue of urban forest health, the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry unit of the USDA Forest Service conducted a survey (468 sent; 206 returned) of urban forestry professionals in the 20 northeast and Midwest States and the District of Columbia in 1996. The survey was designed to reveal attitudes towards urban forest health, identify specific training and information needs in the area of urban tree health management, and discover preferences in technology transfer methods. A summary of the results of this survey, entitled Urban Forest Health Needs Assessment Survey: Results and Recommendations is available upon request.
|Less than 25 percent of the urban forestry professionals surveyed ranked as good to excellent the general health of the urban forests in their city or state.|
|Less than 50 percent of respondents said that preserving the health of urban forests is an integral component of their local Urban and Community programs, yet 99 percent felt that it should be.|
|More than 95 percent identified the same five long-term tree care strategies (proper site/species selection, proper pruning techniques, minimizing construction damage, insect management, and tree health monitoring) as being critical to preserving the health and sustainability of our urban forests.|
|Respondents indicated a high level of interest for training and printed information in the area of urban tree health management.|
|Respondents identified strong preferences in their ranking of effective educational outreach methods.|
|National statistics and the results of this survey indicate a need to improve the health of our urban forests, and to increase program emphasis on long-term tree monitoring, care and maintenance. Support for implementing the following recommendations is needed to ensure our urban trees survive and reach their maximum potential for providing ecological, economic and health-related benefits to the growing number of Americans living in urban areas:|
|Develop comprehensive urban and community forestry programs that address urban tree health issues and implement long-term tree practices and strategies:|
|||Encourage States to include an urban forest health management component in their Five-Year-Urban and Community Forestry Strategic Plans.|
|||Encourage States to implement program priorities outlined in the National Urban and Community Forestry Program Standards: all tree planting projects would include an approved maintenance plan and use plant materials that meet the American Standards for Nursery Stock; and all tree maintenance projects would meet the standards of the American National Standards Institute.|
|Develop and implement technology transfer programs in urban forest health management that are tailored to identified training and informational needs, and preferred educational outreach methods.|