Shape policies to keep urban forests growing.
Consider all the ways your community tries to control land uses, assure sustainable development, and protect its environment. The menu of choices is long, but every community uses at least some of these tools to influence the largest part of their urban forests — trees on privately-owned land. Urban forests can’t thrive if critical policies are missing or need to be modified.
Plans should intersect and reflect multiple agency goals.
DC’s Sustainability Plan was built by a large roster of municipal agencies with strong community engagement. In October, 2017 the city began preparation for Sustainability 2.0 — an update that reflects progress to date, and sets ambitious goals for most issue areas, including tree canopy.
Plans should reflect policy priorities
For decades DC worked to overcome inadequate stormwater controls and better manage combined sewer overflows. As part of the regulatory discussions with EPA, a team of hydrologists, urban foresters and regulators compiled the Green Build Out plan.
The Green Build-out Model adds the “green component” to the existing hydrologic and hydraulic model of the District (Mike Urban) used by the DC Water and Sewer Authority to support development of the Long Term Control Plan for the CSS. The MS4 areas were added to the model so that all of the municipal sewer systems were included in one planning tool.
|Comprehensive plans||The comprehensive plan – yours may be called a general plan or master plan – is the foundation policy document for local governments. They’re called “comprehensive” because they address many different community concerns – from land use and transportation to school boundaries and public health. These kinds of plans help guide specific policy decisions for a decade or more.|
|Stormwater, water quality and watershed plans||Because of Federal and state requirements, your community almost certainly works under a similar plan or set of plans|
|Green infrastructure plans||The best begin with a comprehensive assessment of needs and wants, then proceed to lay out the case for why green infrastructure [including forestry] should be implemented, its costs and benefits. All crafted with the best available science at the core.|
|Transportation plans||Streets and roadways constitute the largest share of publicly-owned and controlled land. Consequently they're one of the best places to implement municipal urban forestry plans. Many communities integrate green and gray infrastructure as part of their stormwater management on public streets.|
|Sustainability plans||Many communities – large and small – have developed multi-dimensional sustainability plans. Virtually all embrace protecting and enhancing the natural resources that make urban spaces livable.|
|Watershed plans||The most useful watershed plans transcend urban and rural boundaries. Viewing the watershed as a whole [i.e. “everybody lives downstream from somebody else”] enables planners to evaluate the impact of site-specific interventions, including urban forests.|
|Disaster, hazard mitigation and climate adaptation plans||Particularly for cities subject to severe weather events, these types of plan – while aiming at resilience – also offer a framework to establish goals and develop policies to protect natural resources. Urban forests almost always can play a significant role in stormwater management and, to a lesser but still relevant extent, in flood control.|
|Stormwater ordinances||Though often constrained by state BMP manuals and other state or Federal rules, modifying your stormwater ordinances to incorporate trees and other forms of green infrastructure may be the most direct route to achieving your goal.|
|Zoning, development, site and subdivision design ordinances [LID]||Whichever of these regulatory approaches one chooses, by applying low-impact design principles, communities can exercise significant influence on the extent of impervious cover in new developments and the practices required to manage on-site stormwater.|
|Tree protection ordinances||These often form the core of a community's urban forestry efforts -- setting standards for tree removal, replacement and for protection of trees during construction.|
|Urban forestry practices and protocols||These can include a wide range of tools – guidelines, ordinances, laws, regulations – concerning such things as public agency cooperation, green industry collaboration, cooperative arrangements with utilities, protection and preservation of large and/or private trees, use of native species, planting requirements, preferred soil specification, etc.|
|Urban forestry budget and staffing||With a budget in place and protected, adequate staffing is essential for making progress toward a sustainable urban forest. Of course, municipal capacity can get a tremendous boost from independent nonprofits, community groups, and individual volunteers. And increasingly, formal arrangements with commercial contractors can be an economical way to supplement or even substitute for municipal staff. Without line items in the city budget, urban forestry activities are apt to be haphazard at best.|
|Urban Forestry Maintenance Plans||These plans address operational processes involving individually managed trees on public property such as streets, recreation centers, and other public places.|
|Regional and statewide plans and regulations||These could include existing plans or planning processes directly or indirectly related to aspects of the broader urban forest, such as open space, recreation trails, economic development, etc.|
|Capital project plan and construction review||Charlotte, North Carolina for example requires sign-off [literally] from their urban forestry staff at every stage of every capital project. Needless to say, this makes it [much] easier to insure natural elements are included in site and building plans.|
|Neighborhood redevelopment projects||Many cities – small and not-so-small – are rebuilding themselves. Often, when large sites [even entire neighborhoods] are slated for renewal, many different municipal departments can come together to plan for a greener setting with more natural landscapes – satisfying many different objectives at once. Bonus: different agencies have their own funding streams that can contribute to the cost of the project.|