Urban Forestry: An Evolving Discipline

Managing the United States' extensive urban tree cover is an increasingly sophisticated effort. November 4, 2010

Steve Bratkovich retired from the US Forest Service in 2007 with over 32 years as a forestry and forest products specialist. He currently serves as Project Manager, Recycling and Reuse, for Dovetail Partners Inc., a Minneapolis based non-profit organization. This publication is archived with permission of Dovetail Partners Inc.

Urban forests are important because of their size and scope, their impact on local economies, and the many social and environmental benefits they provide, due in large part to their proximity to people. According to the U.S. Forest Service, urban trees in the contiguous U.S. account for nearly one-quarter of the nation’s total tree canopy cover—approximately 74 billion trees.

Urban forestry—sometimes referred to as urban forest management—is the planning and management of trees, forests, and related vegetation within communities to create and add value. Throughout the past two centuries in the U.S., the focus of urban forestry has shifted from one of beautification to one that includes the environmental, conservation, economic and social benefits of community trees and urban forests.

This report focuses on urban forestry and its continuing transformation into a discipline that mirrors many of the considerations and complexities of traditional forest management. Examples are presented that highlight real-world and 21st century urban forest management. Recommendations are offered as to how rural and urban foresters can collaborate to maximize benefits from all of our nation’s forests.

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