What is Urban Forestry?

July 22, 2016

Although the term “urban forestry” may not have been used with ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Chinese and Romans, there is evidence that civilizations all cared for greenspaces, even planting trees around buildings.

The earliest action of urban forestry in the US, however, started with the tree warden laws first enacted in 1896 by the state of Massachusetts. Just around that same time, movements in the UK by organizations like the Midland reafforesting association began planting trees on land degraded by previous industrial activity throughout the Black Country.

These innovative movements developed forestry practices in urban areas, providing us with a plethora of new definitions for planting and growing “urban forests” in European and North American cities. But as often is the case, developing innovative ideas can create more questions with each one they solve. Even today, arborists and urban forestry experts still debate the purpose and role of urban forestry. Is it simply a forest in an urban area? Or rather the urban conditions that the forest adapts to? Or specifically the management of trees in an urban area?

Urban Forestry Durham North Carolina

Tree Pruning in Durham, North Carolina

Over the next several weeks, we will begin to explore these questions. Our context will build on local and national case studies and expand on the varying definitions of urban forestry, including urban forestry is “responsible for enforcing ordinances related to trees within the city and is coordinated by the Urban Forester.”

And…it is also, “the planning and management of trees, forests, and related vegetation within communities to create or add value.”

And…, it can be the “association of all the plants, animals and geological features that occur in a landscape dominated by trees” with man a major animal.

One thing is for sure, the benefits of urban trees far outweigh the costs of planting and maintaining them. We’ll start exploring those benefits next week.