WHAT DO YOU HAVE?
Step A. Assess the tree resource.
An assessment of tree resources provides the basic information necessary
for making management decisions. It also provides a baseline against which
change can be measured. Ideally, this assessment should include all tree
resources within the planning area of the municipality. However, in communities
that are just starting to consider municipal tree management, an incremental
approach may be more practical. In this case, the assessment may be focused
on a certain portion of the urban forest, such as street trees or trees
in a particular geographic area.
Tree resource assessments are based on various inventory methods, most
of which require some type of survey. Complete tree inventories of all
public trees are relatively common, and play a central role in many tree
management programs. However, for the purposes of setting goals and initiating
a management strategy, information from a representative sample of the
urban forest will often suffice.
Information that may be useful for management planning includes:
total number of trees classified by species, condition, age, size, and
problem situations, such as sidewalk damage, disease and pest problems,
or hazardous trees, preferably linked to the basic tree data listed above;
amount of canopy cover by location.
Inventories vary in complexity depending on the size of the community and
the nature of the data collected. They can be made by city staff, consultants,
or trained volunteers. In one small community, an inventory of street trees
was conducted as an Eagle Scout project. However, it is important to ensure
that the data collected is valid and reliable, since this information provides
a basis for decisions made in later steps in the process. Several simple
sampling and evaluation techniques applicable to urban forestry are described
in the Evaluation
Step B. Review
tree management practices.
An important part of understanding the status of the urban forest is knowing
how it has been managed. This requires information on both past and current
management methods and actions, such as:
municipal tree care practices, including planting, maintenance, and removal;
existing ordinances, and the level of enforcement practiced (numbers of
violations, permits and citations issued, penalties and fines collected);
planning regulations and guidelines that pertain to trees, and numbers
of tree-related permits granted, modified, or denied;
activities of municipal departments and public utilities that impact trees.
The specific types of information involved will vary by jurisdiction, depending
on the level of past and current tree management. Municipal records are
the most reliable source of this information. However, records on maintenance
or ordinance enforcement may not exist in some cases, and the information
may have to be obtained by interviewing local government staff involved
with these activities.
The point of this step is to identify all of the activities that affect trees
in the community, especially those that are under municipal control of one form
or other. For instance, various ordinances and planning regulations seemingly
unrelated to the tree program may impinge on tree resources and their impact
must be taken into account. Before trying to change community forest management,
we need to consider both current and historical management practices and identify
all of the players involved.