DNR FIELD NOTES
October 10, 2010
CELEBRATING TWENTY YEARS OF CARING FOR WASHINGTON’S URBAN AND COMMUNITY FORESTS
By Aaron Everett
Washington State Forester
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Where would our communities be without our urban forests?
Urban forests are all around us. Our parks, street trees, landscaped boulevards, public gardens, river and coastal boardwalks, greenways, river corridors, wetlands, nature preserves, natural areas, shelterbelts, and trees in our back yards are all part of the urban forest.
With 80 percent of the nation's population living in cities, urban forests provide a natural life support system that helps sustain us. Trees offer better air quality, improved water quality, and even create community cohesion.
Twenty years ago, the challenges of sustaining urban forests were evident nationwide because the health of our cities’ trees was declining. As a result, a national Urban & Community Forestry program was developed to educate citizens and decision-makers about the economic, environmental, psychological, and aesthetic benefits of trees. With the help of this program, communities across the United States have taken stock of tree locations and conditions, made plans for their care and maintenance, established ordinances to protect trees, and carried out projects to improve and expand tree cover.
Why does all this matter? Healthy, well-maintained trees have been shown to increase property values and reduce heating and cooling costs. Research also shows there is less crime and violence in areas with trees and green public spaces. Urban green spaces provide a local respite, eliminating the need to travel great distances to find an escape into nature.
With easily accessible natural areas in our cities, awareness of the outdoors is fostered into our daily lives. These areas give us an important, personal connection at a time when our culture relies heavily on electronic and virtual ways of relating to the outdoors. Plus, this connection helps urban residents develop strong support for natural resources.
Since 1991, DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program has been providing leadership to create self-sustaining urban forestry programs that preserve, plant, and manage forests and trees for public benefits and quality of life.
The program is funded by the USDA Forest Service. When funding permits, grants are awarded to Washington communities, educational institutions, tribes, and non-profit organizations. Since the program’s inception, over $2 million has been awarded for on-the-ground urban forestry projects. The money has been used to fund education and planning projects, such as tree inventories, canopy assessments, and management plans.
As a firm advocate for the investment in community trees and forests, DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program helps local governments, citizen groups, and volunteers in planting and sustaining healthy trees where people live and work in Washington.
It’s imperative that we manage and care for our urban forests so their benefits will be enjoyed for future generations.
Media Contact: Janet Pearce, Community Outreach and Education, 360-902-1122, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITORS: Photo of Aaron Everett is available on request.