By: Richard J. Magill, Magill & Associates, Inc.

This is the last in a series of six articles that explore the various interactions and outcomes that result from human contact with the urban forest.

This particular article will touch on the roles and responsibilities of city governments, elected and appointed officials, and other non-governmental organizations that are necessary to advance and maintain successful policies, planning and programs that promote and maintain our urban forests. A summary of the benefits of urban forests closes the six-article series.

The Role of Stakeholders

Urban Forestry is a vital component of sustainable communities given the vast and diverse benefits provided by trees and urban forests.

The advancement of cooperative and productive relationships with the following stakeholders is critical to establishing and maintaining successful urban forestry programs in our cities.

  • Elected Officials – can enact legislation with proactive policies that enable the various governmental departments to implement programs and practices that ensure the growth and overall health of the urban forest for the benefit of urban residents and visitors alike.
  • Planning Departments – can create master plans, policies and strategies that prioritize the trees and urban forests. Planning departments need to identify incentives for private sector entities to include trees, green spaces and other vegetation as necessary components of their development projects. Also, the development and implementation of conservation easements, “protection in perpetuity’ agreements, legal land trusts, and transfer of development rights programs for the creation and preservation of green space are important ways that planners can advance the proliferation of the urban forest.
  • Public Works – can advocate the utilization of natural infrastructure in storm water management, energy consumption, and in reduction of the urban heat island effect. Public works departments can also advance the use of natural infrastructure through thoughtful design in, construction and maintenance practices.
  • Transportation Departments – can advocate tree planting zones in road construction projects, and in the design and construction of urban greenway connections.

development of urban environment

  • Economic Development Departments – can identify incentives for the private sector to include trees and other elements of the urban forest in their projects. Economic development departments can also develop funding programs through which actual landscaping and/or land acquisitions are possible. The quantification of the local economic contributions of trees and urban forests can also be beneficial to further the health of the urban forest. Economic development departments should include trees and green spaces as critical components of any economic development plan.
  • Parks and Recreation Departments – can capitalize on their inherit mandate to provide quality green spaces, planting and maintaining the urban canopy, and engaging the community with regard to the benefits of trees and urban forests.
  • Community Services Departments – can create “green collar” jobs programs, and engage the community on the benefits of trees and urban forests.
  • Private Sector Organizations – can approach urban forestry on a “project by project” basis and focus on one mission at a time. Private sector organizations are also better positioned than the public sector to secure private donations.
  • Non-Profit Organizations -for advocacy of strategic partnerships; access to alternative funding sources; access to volunteer staff resources.

Resources for the Development of an Urban Forestry Program

“Talking Trees- An Urban Forestry Toolkit for Local Governments” November 2006 Ryan Bell and Jennie Wheeler, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability

Center for Urban Horticulture, University of Washington, College of Forest Resources

development of urban forest


This series of six articles has investigated the various interactions and resulting benefits of the urban forest on the human condition. A healthy urban forest can help cities and municipalities achieve environmental, social, and economic sustainability goals, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere. The urban landscape can be thought of as an urban ecosystem, with each part directly relating to and affecting the whole system. The urban forest functions in this urban ecosystem by mitigating harmful environmental issues, such as water and air pollution, and by shading and sheltering buildings with trees to reduce cooling and heating costs. In the urban environment, our health and welfare can benefit from exposure to natural settings, such as providing locations for recreation and relief from the stresses of everyday life. The benefits of trees are voluminous and immensely significant for the continued advancement of the quality of life in our rapidly-growing urban environments.

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