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What is the Boston Urban Forestry Initiative?

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Republished with permission of The Trustees.

Through the leadership of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the Urban Ecology Institute and a broad coalition of Ngos, academic institutions, and businesses, we hope to launch a major new Urban Forest Initiative with the goal of expanding Boston’s Urban Forest by 20% by the year 2030. This translates into planting over 100,000 trees in Boston on public and private lands.

In 2006, the City joined with Urban Ecology Institute to create the Boston Urban Forest Coalition. Over the course of last summer and into the fall, 300 neighborhood-based volunteers of the Coalition completed the first-ever comprehensive inventory of Boston’s urban forest using hand-held computer technology. The inventory included both a detailed survey of Boston’s street trees and an analysis of Boston’s overall tree cover using aerial remote-sensing imagery conducted by the US Forest Service. Mayor Menino announced the findings of this survey at a Boston Urban Forestry Coalition event honoring Nobel Peace Prize winner and world renown environmentalist Dr. Wangari Maathai of Kenya.

The results of the Boston urban forest survey found that:

Who are the partners?

The City of Boston, as a founding member of Boston’s Urban Forest Coalition, is proud of the strength of the partnership that makes this initiative possible. The Boston Urban Forest Coalition (BUFC) is an innovative public-private partnership working to transform Boston’s urban forest in order to improve the urban ecosystem, public health and the quality of life of Boston’s residents.

Participants include: Dorchester Environmental Health Coalition, Earthworks, the Franklin Park Coalition, Mapping Sustainability, Classic Communications, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Eagle Eye Institute, the Urban Ecology Institute, the City of Boston Parks Dept. and the USDA Forest Service.

The Challenges

Despite the relatively healthy size and condition Boston’s Urban Forest, there are neighborhoods of the city that are underserved with regard to access to environmental resources. These areas of Boston also tend to be the neighborhoods with higher rates of asthma and other public health ailments, as well as higher temperatures from urban heat island effect.

Early implementation of our Boston Urban Forestry Initiative will target investments in neighborhoods with the greatest need for expanded tree canopy, with a focus of reducing heat island effect and energy consumption, improving air quality, beautifying neighborhoods, and reducing stormwater runoff.

The Solutions

This project promotes the use of trees as a critical component of creating healthy communities and green infrastructure in Boston and the region.

In 2006, the Urban Ecology Institute (UEI), in partnership with the City of Boston and Boston’s Urban Forest Coalition (BUFC), completed the first-ever comprehensive inventory of Boston’s urban forest. We have since completed an analysis of the inventory data using a USDA Forest Service model called the Forest Opportunity Spectrum (FOS), which is a tool for identifying the range of existing forestry opportunities in an urban area, analyzing the effects of planning and management decisions, and monitoring and evaluating social and ecological products and outcomes.

The results of the FOS analysis for Boston showed that the city currently has 29% canopy cover. While this is a relatively healthy canopy cover overall, our data showed significant disparities across Boston’s neighborhoods. Canopy cover ranges from 9-15% in South Boston, Dorchester, and Roxbury, to well over 40% in West Roxbury and Hyde Park, which are higher-income neighborhoods. Not surprisingly, the neighborhoods with low canopy cover also tend to be environmental just neighborhoods, areas that suffer from the urban heat island effect, areas with poor air quality, and crime hot spots.

The well-being of Boston’s residents is inextricably linked to the well-being of the urban environment. For this reason the City of Boston, UEI, and BUFC share an urgency to address this critical issue, and see the Urban Forestry Initiative as a powerful tool to that end. With this effort Boston will join other partner cities in the Urban Ecology Collaborative, a regional coalition of cities along the northeast corridor, including Baltimore and New York.

Goals

Increase Energy Efficiency

The program will have a major focus on reducing heat island effect and promoting energy efficiency. Early implementation will target private property plantings to maximize shading of buildings and impervious surfaces, reducing heat island effect and conserving energy. We have engaged the US Forest Service Northern Research Station in developing the first Urban Experimental Forest in Boston. One of the carly research subjects will be a study/accounting of the effect that tree canopy shading can have on micro climates and in conserving energy.

It is our expectation that this targeted tree planting and research will demonstrate that urban forestry is a good investment that is worthy of consideration in regional and potentially national greenhouse gas cap and trade programs. Rather than focusing purely on the carbon sequestration benefits of urban forestry, we will document the benefits of energy demand avoidance through urban forestry. This will be the first of its kind project in the nation.

Improve Air Quality

Boston’s trees play an important role in maintaining the city’s air quality. According to calculations from our tree inventory data performed by the US Forest Service’s UFORE model, the street trees in just three of Boston’s 16 neighborhoods, East Boston, Roslindale, and South End (approximately 7500 trees overall) are valued at $12,200,000. Collectively, these street trees remove 2,681 kg of CO, 03, NO2, PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 microns), and SO2 from Boston’s air each year. They also sequester 55,087 kg of carbon each year, and store 1,579,479 kg of carbon. Overall, Boston’s 8700 acres of urban forest removed over 775,000 tons of air pollutants each year, at a value of $1.9 million.

By focusing on tree plantings within 30 feet of roadways, we are reducing air pollution where it is at its worst.

Control Stormwater and Improve Water Quality

Boston’s urban forest plays a significant role in mitigating stormwater runoff in the city. Preliminary analysis from the inventory shows that the urban forest mitigates 43 million gallons of stormwater per year, at a value of $84 million. The City of Boston, working with federal and state partners, has drastically improved the water quality of Boston Harbor and its tributaries after billions of dollars in infrastructure investme p3595Xnts. We are now targeting nonpoint source pollution as a priority focus to ensure continued improvements in water quality. Increasing Boston’s tree canopy will improve our ability to naturally manage stormwater runoff. F

Educate Developers, Promote Project Developmenv/Site Planning In corporating Trees

The Mayor will direct city agencies to integrate the goals of our Urban Forestry Initiative into the planning and implementation of all city departments, particularly those departments that regularly interface with developers. W orking with the Urban Ecology Institute, we are developing a manual for developers on environmentally friendly one practices for Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development. The manual covers topics such as the selection of tree species in the urban environment, and tree planting to maximize energy efficiency. The Department of Neighborhood Development, and other city departments, will use this manual to complement existing materials on green building practices. ;

Educate Developers, Government Agencies and Citizens about the Benefits of Trees

The Boston Urban Forestry Initiative is engaging a wide range of public and private stakeholders in the planting and stewardship of the urban forest. While many residents understand and value the role that trees play in their community, the success of an effort of this magnitude requires a broad understanding of the benefits of trees. We have structured the Urban Forestry Initiative to provide a variety of opportunities for residents and other stakeholders to learn more about and engage in their urban forest. These efforts include:

The Urban Forestry Initiatives provides opportunities for Boston’s residents to bring about lasting and meaningful change in their communities by becoming integral partners in managing and expanding the urban tree canopy. It is an example of what’s possible with local government, private organizations, and passionate residents create a shared vision for the city, and join together to make that vision a reality.

Minimize the Depletion of Trees & Other Natural Resources

Boston is at the forefront of environmentally progressive policies and practices. This past year Boston became the first city in the nation to implement green building zoning requirements requiring large private development to meet the U.S, Green Building Council’s LEED standards.

In April Mayor Thomas Menino announced a pioneering climate change initiative through which the city has committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. Boston is also the largest municipal purchaser of renewable energy and biodiesel in New England.

Through the Urban Forestry Initiative Boston is continuing in its role as an environmental leader by ensuring that our urban forest resources are protected, well managed, and expanded. Our urban forest provides the foundation for our entire urban ecosystem. By being a good steward of the forest we are protecting the natural resource systems – water, air, wildlife – that are so closely linked to and dependent on it.

What are the measures of success?

The Boston Urban Forest Initiative is focused on growing and sustaining Boston’s urban forest for this and future generations. Far from being a project to “put trees in the ground,” the Boston Urban Forest Initiative is grounded in resident education, community participation, and sound stewardship practices. By engaging Boston residents in the care and expansion of their urban forest, and by linking this initiative to the priority issues for Boston’s communities, we are working to ensure that this effort is successful in transforming our physical environment, fostering a greater sense of environmental stewardship, and strengthening our communities.

We have developed an implementation strategy that includes targeted tree plantings on city, state, residential, and tax-exempt properties. The plan is designed to address three major environmental challenges: tree canopy inequities, poor air quality zones, and urban heat islands. Implementation of the plan will include an increase in public property plantings by both the city and state, an increase in existing planting programs through Boston’s Urban Forest Coalition, and the launch of three new initiatives focused on plantings on private property.

We have also established methods for regularly monitoring and evaluating the success of the initiative. We have developed a sophisticated system for managing tree requests and tracking and monitoring all tree plantings that take place through the initiative. We are defining success in terms of the on-going health and vitality of the newly planted trees as well as the community engagement and stewardship. Our goal is to maintain a 95% tree survival rate over the course of the project.

The City of Boston and the Urban Forest Coalition are working together to secure long-term funding for trees and other plant material to complete the Urban Tree Canopy goal.

  1. Project Name: Grow Boston Greener – 100,000 Trees by 2020
  2. Project Summary: row Boston Greener (GBG) is a collaborative effort of the City of Boston and its partners in Boston’s Urban Forest Coalition (BUFC) to increase the urban tree canopy cover in the city by planting 100,000 trees by 2020. The planting of these trees will increase Boston’s tree canopy cover from 29% to 35%, by 2030 as the planted trees mature.Trees will be planted throughout the City with primary focus on environmental justice communities with low cover. These low canopy cover communities where > identified through use of aerial imagery and remote sensing technology that classified land cover by type inchiding tree canopy cover, pervious surfaces (such ag dirt aiid grass), water, wetland, and impervious surfaces (such as concrete and asphalt). We then used the Forest Opportunity Spectrum (FOS), a modeling program developed by the USDA Forest Service, to calculate the existing urban tree canopy cover and the potential for additional tree canopy cover for cach of Boston’s sixteen neighborhoods. FOS is a computer-modeling tool for assessing a city’s existing canopy cover and setting a canopy cover goal based on desired environmental and social outcomes. This modeling too] aided in identifying the range of existing tree planting opportunities in Boston.The results of the sa evel page showed that the city currently has 29% canopy cover. While this is a relatively e overall, our data showed significant disparities across Boston’s neigh —€afiopy cover ranges from 9-15% in South Boston, Dorchester, and Roxbury, to well over 40% in West Roxbury and Hyde Park, which are higher-income neighborhoods. Not surprisingly, the neighborhoods with low canopy cover also tend to be environmental justice neighborhoods, areas that suffer from the urban heat island effect, areas with poor air quality, and crime hot spots.We know that the lack of healthy forest cover in urban communities is, in many cases, closely related to the social and physical challenges the communities face. A healthy urban forest, including trees and public open spaces, significantly improves the quality of life in less advantaged urban communities by providing environmental, economic, civic, and public health benefits.GBG is designed to address the environmental challenges — canopy cover disparities, urban heat islands, and low air quality — while also strengthening the social fabric of Boston’s neighborhoods by involving residents in the expansion and stewardship of their _ urban forest.GBG will prioritize tree plantings in areas of low canopy cover. These areas have been identified through the remote sensing analysis of existing canopy cover in the City. We have identified each census block in the city that currently has less that 35% canopy cover. Through GBG we will work with community partners to identify appropriate planting locations in those areas and implement planting projects.
  3. Comprehensive Planting Plan:“We have identified several ” large site planting” locations, along with a waiting list of about 500 people who have requested a free tree for their private residence, for the upcoming year.We will be targeting low canopy neighborhoods for our “Private Property Planting” and our “Tree Captain” programs to the extent that we plan to start actively reaching out to these residents in these ne ighborhoods that currently do not want trees or haven’t heard about our programs.See the attached “State of the Urban Forest” document for the neighborhoods that we plan to target. At first we will be targeting the neighborhoods with the lowest overall percent canopy coverage, and then move out to all neighborhoods currently under the 35% canopy coverage goal.

Proposed “Large Site Planting” locations:

  1. Noyce Playground (new trees in the park)

2. Garvey Playground (new trees in the park)

  1. Barry Playground
  1. M Street Park

There are numerous other possibilities that are not confirmed at this moment that are privately owned, or own by other organizations. Most are similar in the number of trees that will be planted with a couple of sites that will be open for up to 100+ trees.

The $100,000 will go towards our three main planting programs:

  1. Large site plantings: Organizing volunteers and proctoring planting at large sites with numerous trees blog planted _ist parks, public housing developments, schools, churches, hospitats; Cemeteries, ctc. Species selection is based on existing vegetation and using “Right Tree, Right Place” techniques (see our attached oat ie List”)
  2. Private Property Plantings: Bost¢n citizens aftending a short seminar that educates them on how to properly t, and care for a free tree that they receive at the end of the semi During these seminars, residents sit down with arborists that help he chon best location and species of tree to plant on their property. te
  3. Tree Captain Program: A program that educates and supplies neighborhood “champions” that will go out and organize more plantings in their specific neighborhood.

Our main target areas of the city for all of our programs are the identified low canopy neighborhoods.

Along with these planting programs, a portion of the funds will go towards dedicated GBG staff to help administer the planting projects. The reason for directing such a high percentage of the money towards staffing is that the majority of our planting opportunities, or locations, are on private property in people’s yards. These locations require a much higher level of outreach and coordination in order to plant because we want to not only increase canopy, but teach stewardship of trees as well.

The scalability of this project is endless. With more funds, we are simply able to buy more trees and administer more planting seminars and large site plantings.

Budget:

Estimated Budget for $100,000 American Express Pianting Challenge

ItemCost
1050 Trees @ approximately 65.00/Tree (includes muich, Compost, stakes)$68,000.00
Tools / Misc.$2,000
Staff$20,000.00
Watering Contract$10,000.00
TOTAL$100,000.00

Tree Size:

Typically, for our “Large Site Planting” we have had good luck planting 5 ~ 10 gallon potted trees (about 1″ caliper, and any where from 5 — 10 fi. tall). We decided to use this size for multiple reasons:

  1. Trees of this size go through a reduced amount of transplant shock
  2. The trees are large enough that they can with stand a little bit more abuse.
  3. People can actually notice that there are new trees planted,
  4. The trees are small enough that volunteers can move and plant them with out the use of power equipment.

For our private property plantings we will use slightly smaller stock (3 — 5 gallon potted) because of the reduced cost and easier transportation to and from tree seminars.

Tree Species:

We have an approved list of species that we plant. Usually our decision making process is dictated by two main factors:

  1. What fits the location, “Right Tree, Right Place” practices.
  2. What’s available at our local nurseries. We have found that it can be challenging to find diverse, high quality stock in the size that we want.

4. Long Term Maintenance Plan:

Currently, before a site is planted, either the owner of the pro must sign an agreement that states that all trees planted will a week (possibly twice a week during dry spells), and the area and free of debris.

As for long-term care, all trees planted on city property will be maintained by the Parks Dept. tree crews; this includes, pruning, pest management, and ultimately removal.

Regarding private property planting, this is accomplished during the tree planting seminars the residents attend in order to receive a free tree. Ultimately, since the tree is

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