"He who plants a tree, plants hope." — Lucy Larcom
Austin's Urban Forest Plan established a broad-scoped, long-range Vision for Austin’s urban forest. Like most comprehensive plans it is inherently hopeful and focuses on the ideal state of the urban forest 20 years in the future. The Plan lays the groundwork and paints a picture of where we're headed; the tracks must still be built and while the train is moving. The Plan provides a comprehensive list of goals, called Policy Elements, reflecting each area of focus that needs to be addressed to reach our Vision. These 59 urban forest goals are grouped into 6 main categories including Protection and Preservation; Sustainable Urban Forest; Planting, Care, and Maintenance; Urban Forest Management Framework; Planning and Design; and Education and Outreach. See the Planning page for a list of programs and initiatives supporting each of the Policy Elements.
Over the next 15 years, as we work towards our 20-year urban forest Vision, we expect many challenges and opportunities that will impact our urban forest. Our community's urban forest ecosystem will continue to face many challenges; such as accelerated land development; harsh environments brought on by climate change and periods of extreme drought and wildfire, and pest and disease; increased public use of parks and associated soil compaction; and safety related to an aging tree population. Additionally, trees do not naturally propagate themselves in a highly urbanized area, like they do in natural ecosystems, meaning the urban forest will not replenish itself without deliberate human intervention.
Opportunities in Austin to support a healthy urban forest abound. Through stewardship activity civic land is being protected and nurtured back to health, trees are protected by our land development code, and soil health is being considered. Non-profit partners are working to activate and educate the community through work days, and art and education programs, and these resulting super stewards are taking their skills home with them to lead projects that benefit their neighborhoods. It is safe to conclude that the urban forest Vision will not occur without this growing culture of stewardship on our public and private property. However much we have seen happen over the last three years, there is a vast untapped source of community energy that may be harnessed to not only plant trees, but also build community.
This city continues to grow and the climate continues to change. There is an opportunity here for Austin to direct its future. With a changing climate, we can expect to see a new varied landscape that our native trees may not be able to survive. Choose diverse tree species to support a more robust and resilient palette in a changing environment. Plant shade and understory story trees to cool your homes and sidewalks, and host birds and pollinators. Become a super steward and learn all you can about our urban forest ecosystem, and then apply for an Urban Forest Grant to plant trees along streets and at schools. A robust urban forest will give back to the community that nurtures it.
The ROI of a tree is measured in reduced urban heat, better air quality, and slower stormwater runoff and it's incredibly cost-effective. One 5-gallon tree costs an average of $X and over its lifetime returns $X value to its community. Ecosystem services of Austin's trees have been well documented in X report in 201X, and X report in 201X. Discovering relevant and consistent data regarding the effectiveness of the programs meant to serve the community and foster stewardship was the next logical step in the implementation of the Plan. The Community Tree Report captures 3 years of non-general fund monies benefiting the urban forest ecosystem, project type and location, and community engagement and education initiatives. While the Plan was adopted in 2014 implementation did not truly begin until 2015 where this report picks up. The genesis of the Community Tree Report stems from Austin's Urban Forest Plan and is guided by an eye toward equity in both the canopy and the community.
The Community Tree Team, partners, and policymakers will use this report to establish a baseline for positive urban forest activity occurring in the community in order to identify areas of success and opportunities for future program development and stewardship activity.
Three themes underpin the Community Tree Report:
- Resilient landscapes;
- Liveability and sustainability; and
- Community health and wellbeing.
Guiding questions to develop the report:
- "Is the City supporting our urban forest ecosystem in a meaningful way that is moving Austin closer to the community's stated Vision as outlined in the Urban Forest Plan?"
- "Are City resources equitably impacting the community?"
- "Are the related processes, programs, projects, and partnerships positively affecting the highest need areas of our urban landscape and community?"
- "What data is available?"
Our Urban Forest Ecosystem
Austin’s human population and gray infrastructure benefit from a healthy and diverse urban forest through improved functional landscapes, community health and well-being, sustainability in a changing climate, and quality of life. The community’s urban forest ecosystem is composed of all trees and vegetation, the soil and water that support it, and includes public and private properties. The ongoing and long-term health and renewal of this resource are largely dependent on stewardship activity by the community, City staff, and partners organizations.