Urban Forest Plans in the Spotlight:

The City of Perth in Western Australia is developing an Urban Forest Plan to answer the continued threat of climate change.

Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi told PSnews Online that trees in the CBD provide shade and beauty as well as important environmental benefits. Perth’s urban forest includes trees and vegetation in public and private areas.

“Cities are particularly vulnerable to increased temperatures because of solar radiation from impervious surfaces such as buildings, roads and footpaths which can create urban heat islands in some areas,” Scaffidi told PSnews Online.

“These increased temperatures have the potential to effect adversely the liveability of our city. It is important to mitigate the urban heath island effect by cooling our public spaces.”

The plan will focus on increasing canopy cover in public areas, replacing old trees, and protecting the existing trees and landscapes. So far, there are 6,900 street trees in the city, excluding the ones on Kings Park and the city’s 26 parks and reserves.

“Perth is regarded as a ‘green city’ but we are also a growing city, so it’s vital that we grow even greener,” Scaffidi told PSnews Online.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the city’s efficiency in maintaining its urban forest has been questioned after a fallen branch recently injured a pedestrian. Rachel Gordon, director of communications and policy at San Francisco Public Works, told The San Francisco Appeal that with only 10 full time arborists, it is hard to maintain the thousands of trees that are overdue for pruning.

The budget cuts to the urban forestry staff means that trees are being pruned once every 10 to 12 years instead of one to five years. The San Francisco Public Works have been trying to offload the maintenance responsibility of most of the 105,000 street trees to private property owners in the last couple of years.

However, Gordon says that there are property owners who refuse to care for the trees because of the cost. Public Works needs around $20 million annually to maintain a better pruning cycle.

Dan Flanagan, executive director of Friends of the Urban Forest, said in a statement that there should be a dedicated funding stream for street tree maintenance like in other cities.

Gordon agrees saying that the trees need to be professionally pruned, not by property owners, especially those that are 60 feet tall or are very old. At the moment, the funding for an arborist apprenticeship program at Public Works has bee approved. This will allow eight full time paid apprentices to join the current team.

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