Why an Urban Forestry Management Plan?

August 5, 2016

So originally I thought we were going to be able to cover this topic in one post but let me tell you, boy, was I wrong. Urban Forestry Management Plans, or UFMPs as some in the industry call them, are intense. And after gathering a bunch of resources and doing a ton of research, I realized we haven’t even explored why UFMPs are important. We know that urban trees are important, but what’s so special about their management? Well it turns out, a lot. First let’s look at what a UFMP is and then what a UFMP does.

For one, think about what an urban forest is – it’s an asset. Specifically an infrastructure asset. What is the one thing an investor wants out of an asset? For it to appreciate. The interesting part about urban forests is that unlike other public infrastructure like roads and bridges, properly planted and maintained trees increase in value over time. They can appreciate in value over time. That’s amazing.

A UFMP includes lots of things: maintenance standards, tree inventories, planting, removal, reforestation, rotation planting, tree selection processes, personnel training and development, and budgets. But at its core it comes down to six components:

  1. Tree inventory data and analysisUrban Offsets Forestry Management Plan Tree Planting
  2. Tree inventory and mapping data management software
  3. Tree risk reduction/emergency storm response plan
  4. Tree board or advisory council development
  5. Public relations and education
  6. Urban forest cost/benefit analysis

In the coming weeks we’ll start sifting through what this mean, but for now, let’s investigate the potential outcomes of a UFMP.

  1. Increased Public Safety
  2. Facilitate short and long-term planning
  3. Justify budgets
  4. Support documentation
  5. Increased efficiency
  6. Provide benefits of increases in urban forests

 

Let’s go over these outcomes in detail.

Increased public safety may be the most important effect of a UFMP. Managing risk and assuring safety in public infrastructure can be a difficult task. A UFMP can provide lists of trees requiring priority removal and pruning that a manager can carry out within the limits of budget and time. This leads to  proactive maintenance over reactive maintenance and can save your community lots of time and money. There’s also the added side effect that a well implemented UFMP can significantly reduce storm damage risks, once again saving time and money.

Short and long-term planning generally suffers without a UFMP. Having tree data and risk analysis readily available assists decision makers create well-informed and timely decisions. Knowing how to plan with the right data can make a significant difference in the health and lifespan of your forest and community.

A UFMP can provide the data and analysis to determine specific levels of funding to justify budgets for tree maintenance and tree planting. This is a big one if your community has shown the desire to plant more trees through your community  but cannot allocate the funding to do so. Many public works managers have found that they have much greater success with budget requests that are based on high-quality data.

Having strong documentation just makes everyone’s job easier. Many public works managers are often asked for documentation to warrant their actions and budgets from the previous period. A UFMP can contain documentation frequently requested by managers such as annual work accomplishments, a contractor’s costs per tree, and removal lists from service requests. An urban forest management plan partnered with  a good tree inventory software program makes reporting very easy.

Increased efficiency can, you guessed it, save time and money. Having a UFMP and not having one is like the difference between trying to sail a ship with or without a map. Eventually you might get to land but without a well planned and designed map, you may end up in the wrong place, run aground a few times, unable to avoid ocean storms, ultimately losing time and money.

As noted last week, the provided benefits of increases in urban forests, can be enormous and your community will thank you for them. These benefits support hundreds of communities’ adoption of  UFMPs.  Next week, I will  jump into the first two sections of planning a UFMP, tree inventory data and analysis is and how tree inventory and mapping data management software look in practice.