Research has shown that positive social benefits, including health and wellness, can come from a simple daily dose of nature. Children with nearby access and views of nature often show fewer symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and increased mental concentration and focus.
In many ways, urban forests are unsung heroes of strong, vital and healthy communities, enriching the lives of the more than 80 percent of Americans who live in cities among the nation’s 136 million acres of urban forest land. The U.S. Forest Service, together with the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council, helps these forests grow and thrive.
The Council recently unveiled its Ten Year Action Plan to advance urban forests nationwide. A key goal of the plan is to improve urban forest management, maintenance and stewardship. In partnership with States, the Forest Service helps over 7,000 communities plan, manage and grow urban forests through the Urban and Community Forestry Program.
The Forest Service also educates professionals and volunteers about cutting-edge technology and research through urban field stations and a webinar series. We’re proud of our 40 year partnership with the Tree City USA program, which works in over 3,400 communities to ensure the long-term success of urban forests through smart local policies, sound management and community participation.
The Action Plan emphasizes the value of getting more diverse groups involved and of leveraging partnerships to expand the impact and reach of projects. In fact, the last decade saw a 49 percent increase in the number of communities with volunteer organizations working to improve urban forests.
And, hundreds of non-profits leverage private donations and engage volunteers through celebrations like Arbor Day and NeighborWoods Month. Also, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership supports 19 locations where Federal agencies are dedicated to revitalizing urban waters and the communities that surround them.
Another important take away from the Action Plan is that all communities deserve the benefits of urban forests. Unfortunately, research also shows us that urban tree canopies are not evenly distributed across income groups.
Through free innovative software tools like i-Tree, the Forest Service helps local managers make the case for investing time and money in urban trees and identifies hot spots in underserved areas, so they can get the most from their resources. For instance, in Minneapolis, an i-Tree assessment showed that public investment in tree care had lowed energy costs by $6.8 million and increased property values by an estimated $7.1 million. i-Tree also helps communities identify where and what kinds of trees can help mitigate the impacts of natural disasters like floods, drought and other extreme weather events.
USDA and U.S. Forest Service staff look forward to working with communities over the next 10 years to ensure that urban forests are an important part of community solutions to enhance sustainability, community resilience, public health, and livability.
More information about the National Ten Year Urban Forestry Action Plan is available at www.fs.fed.us/ucf/nucfac.html.