NATURE NOTE – Number 57                                                                                                      November 28, 2022


NATURE NOTE Number 18 in April 2021 tried to explain what forestry is.  Lots of people might think they know what it is, but very few really know the broad spectrum of issues that forestry covers.  Traditionally it’s been about large blocks of forest out in the rural county side that may go on for miles.  It is often a “working” forest, meaning it is producing forest products we use in our everyday life, or it’s a protected block of land that has scenic value, such as a National Park.  But let’s add something else that you may not consider when you hear the term forestry:

Our Current topic:  Urban Forestry

What is it?  Well, as implied, it is dealing with the trees and their environment in an urban or suburban setting.  As a starter, think of city parks, tree-lined streets, greenways, and city reservoirs surrounded by forests.  These are not going to be harvested for forest products, and in many cases they are not significant wildlife habitats.  Yes, they produce oxygen, and many of them provide for recreation, and in some cases they are significant for watershed protection.  Within the last few decades, more and more cities and local governments have recognized the need to manage these resources, especially in view of the rapid rate of forest fragmentation with more and more development in and around cities.  Also, more and more forestry schools (such as Virginia Tech) have started turning out urban foresters to meet this need.  Unlike traditional foresters, these professionals have to deal with a whole host of different threats, user groups, and in some cases, species of trees.  Many of these trees are highly visible and part of a landscape that is very important for the quality of life of the citizens.  In addition to various threats from diseases and insects, these trees often have to deal with foul air produced by heavy traffic, a myriad of infrastructure of streets, buried pipes, overhead  electrical lines, sidewalks, new construction, walking paths, heavy foot traffic, etc.  This green infrastructure is now being recognized as a valuable resource that demands protection and management.  More and more attention is being paid to “Heat Islands” in cities.  These are local areas that register higher temperatures than surrounding urban areas.  This may be a result of less tree canopy and the cooling effect these trees provide on hot summer days.  Cities are now beginning to address the need to plant more trees or encourage property owners to plant trees to help mitigate this issue.  The urban forester is a key part of the answer to these various needs.  Working closely with urban planners, arborists, utility maintenance crews, and water resources managers, urban foresters fill that gap between traditional foresters and landscape services for the ever expanding built-up areas of a city or town. Their areas of responsibilities need to be sustained just like the more traditional forests. 

Often located outside of the city, but vital to the residents and under the management of the local government, large reservoirs provide clean water to the citizens.  These reservoirs are usually surrounded by forests that need protection as well.  These can fall under the urban forester’s responsibility.  Not only does there need to be protection from wildfires, diseases and insects, but protection from over-use by citizens wanting recreation space where they can hike, bike, boat, picnic, etc. in a scenic outdoor setting.  Regulations controlling this use are needed.  Storm water mitigation and erosion control also touches on the need for forestry practices in urban environments.  The federal government recognizes the need to encourage cities to upgrade and maintain their green resources and often provide grant money for this purpose.  The urban forester is often the “go-to” guy as to where this can best be used.


While this NATURE NOTE might not be as easy to integrate into scouting as others have been, it may help adults to understand that there is a growing professional field out there that might be of interest to scouts that want to help protect the environment – especially if they are from an urban area – and at the same time work outdoors in nature.  They probably won’t learn about urban forestry in high school.  Help inform the younger generation.  Also, this NATURE NOTE might have given you a little insight to this field as well, and leave you with a better understanding of how forestry is trying to help nature provide its value to people that live in a urban area.  These people may not know about traditional forestry, but they love the city park down the street with its huge oaks, shady paths and entertaining birds and squirrels. 

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Thanks, Bob Garst