Planning: Best Practices in Urban Forestry

Goals are good.  Getting it done is better.

Urban Forestry Toolkit


Top-tier plans cover multiple topics

Don’t simply announce a tree planting goal, and wait for things to happen.  Even if you’ve organized partnerships to help plant trees, there’s a lot more that goes into an effective urban forestry program – one that, once in place, can sustain your urban trees over the long haul. Here’s what the best plans include.

  • Planting strategies for public sites that deliver benefits to neighborhoods where needed;
  • Policies and incentives that promote tree preservation and planting on private lands;
  • Systematic monitoring;
  • Regular, scheduled maintenance;
  • Pro-active risk assessment and management;
  • Long-term funding and staffing;
  • Active support from municipal agencies, volunteers, non-profits;
  • Disaster response, mitigation and remediation.
 One Comprehensive Approach to Managing Public Spaces

Washington, DC has compiled a manual for design, management, monitoring and maintenance of uses on all private lands. No separate manual for street trees, or natural areas, or parks. One manual. One stop.

DC Public Realm Design Manual CoverDC: One Manual. All Places.

You needn’t strive to be “best” in every category, or any category for that matter. All communities are different, with different needs and community expectations, not to mention access to resources.

Explore other community plans.

Reading a “list” of what goes into a good urban forestry plan can point the way. To get a better sense of how others have navigated the journey, take a few minutes and look at these exemplary plans – from communities of every size.

Some run hundreds of pages; others no more than a dozen. Many cover the same topics, albeit in different ways – from very detailed to mostly aspirational.  Here are a few. You can find more in the resource library.

Pittsburgh's excellent Urban Forest Management Plan

Pittsburgh Urban Forest Master PlanOne of the most comprehensive. Multiple partners with community input produced long-term plan that will grow Pittsburgh’s urban forest.

Ambitious targets characterize this plan.

Cleveland Urban Forest PlanComprehensive plan sets ambitious targets and responsibilities for most Cleveland city departments.

Austin has great trees.

Austin Forest Management PlanAustin’s plan is based on comprehensive street tree inventory and tree canopy data.

Related Resources
Urban Forestry Toolkit