Sidebar: What is Urban Forestry?


Urban forestry is the cultivation and management of trees in urban areas, and is sometimes referred to as city forestry or community forestry. The United States is a leader in the field of urban forestry. Trees and greenspace have been valued in urban environments in America since the mid-nineteenth century, when urban designers like Frederick Law Olmsted, Ebenezer Howard, and Patrick Geddes began exploring the value of green space and trees as an integral (and valuable) part of the metropolitan landscape.((Robert Young, “Interdisciplinary Foundations of Urban Ecology,” Urban Ecosystems 12 (2009): 311–331.))

The concept of urban forestry emerged here during the 1960s as the introduction of new devastating pests and pathogens created a need for the management systems to cope with them.((Mark Johnston, “A Brief History of Urban Forestry in the United States,” Arboricultural Journal: The International Journal of Urban Forestry 20, no. 3 (1996): 257–278. )) The development of tree ordinances emerged as Dutch elm disease ravaged cities in the eastern United States from the 1930s to 1960s. The movement continued to grow in response to urban development and loss of urban tree canopy.

The 1980s brought a second generation of city tree ordinances, due to a growing desire in communities to preserve nature as new development happened. These new ordinances often included specific provisions such as the diameter of trees and percentage of trees to be protected during development.((Haileng Xiao, “Local Ordinances to Protect Private Trees: A Field Investigation and an Analysis,” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 1995.)) This era also saw the creation of nonprofit organizations functioning as community tree advocates.

Today contemporary urban forestry programs often rely heavily on nonprofit tree advocacy groups for tree plantings, outreach, and stewardship efforts.((Wolf, “Introduction to Urban and Community Forestry Programs,” 19–28.)) Groups like the Arbor Day Foundation, working at the national level, also provide support for local urban forestry efforts.