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Austin's Urban Forest Vision

Austin's Urban Forest Plan

Austin's Urban Forest Plan established a broad, 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. It 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 were established to address topics ranging from data collection and management, funding resources, tree planting and care, reducing development impacts, and engaging with partners and the community.

Comprehensive plans are often difficult to measure and this section approaches the task as an opportunity to share priority activities, programs, and initiatives that are helping Austin move the needle towards our community's urban forest Vision for 2034. It's been an iterative journey to implement a Code-mandated and largely unfunded plan. Evaluating existing resources, recruiting partners, and analyzing priorities for those resources was the first step in the implementation process. The Planning section of the Community Tree Impact Report provides an overview of where implementation stands today.
As our community continues to work toward our 2034 Vision for Austin's urban forest, we can expect many challenges and opportunities. There is an opportunity for Austin to direct its future and take proactive steps to nurture and protect trees in our neighborhoods and public spaces.

Ongoing and Future Challenges

Challenges to urban forest health: 
  • Accelerating land development
  • Community apathy 
  • Soloed interest groups and organizations 
  • Extreme conditions brought on by climate change such as extreme heat, drought, flooding, and wildfire 
  • Uncontrolled invasive plants, pests, and disease
  • Lack of diversity in genus and species in existing tree resource 
  • An increasing use of parks and associated soil compaction around trees
  • Political pressure to reduce tree protections

Ongoing and Future Opportunities

Opportunities for urban forest health: 
  • Partnerships with mission-compatible organizations
  • Development of purpose-driven data 
  • Increasing data transparency  
  • Supporting tree species and age diversity
  • Supporting a culture of stewards and community engagement 
  • Collectively focusing resources on high priority planting areas
  • Supporting internal, City of Austin, stewardship activities on public land

Urban Forest Plan Policy Categories

The Policy elements and respective categories are the guiding frameworks of Austin’s Comprehensive Urban Forest Plan. Below you'll find an introduction to each category. To review the 59 policy elements visit the Urban Forest Plan (pg 71).

Protection and Preservation

Policies related to preservation of public urban forest resources through regulation and other approaches that enhance preservation.

Sustainable Urban Forest

Sustainable Urban Forest policies are related to the sustainability of the urban forest resource itself and the resources related to its management, such as water (and city assets).

Planting, Care, and Maintenance

Planting, care, and maintenance policies are related to the consideration of existing public urban forest resources and proactive planning for sustainable future urban forest resources while understanding the inherent conflict between active site use and healthy forests.

Urban Forest Management Framework

Policies related to City organizational structure and staffing levels, staff qualifications, the involvement of City forestry staff in other City disciplines and functions, and funding for urban forest programs and efforts.

Planning and Design

Policies related to the consideration of existing public urban forest resources and planning for sustainable future urban forest resources on a site-level scale.

Education and Outreach

Policies related to public education, outreach, stewardship, and training of citizens, private entities, and nonprofit organizations for urban forest promotion to achieve the vision for the urban forest.

Implementation Strategies 

The Urban Forest Plan's implementation measures and policy elements are used as a guide for the prioritization of resources. Below you'll find a list of priority activities, programs, and initiatives that are helping Austin move the needle towards our community's urban forest Vision for 2034. 
  • Increased interdepartmental coordination through a chartered Forestry Leadership Team. 
  • UFIA data collection, analysis, report
  • Planting Prioritization map created and utilized by partners, contractors, and foresters.
  • New park tree plantings inventoried to better facilitate young tree maintenance and irrigation.
  • Tree canopy updates made to GIS data and baselines adjusted.
  • An Urban Forest Sustainability and Management Review (UFSMR) completed.
  • Filled three Community Tree staff positions to coordinate city-wide urban forest health initiatives, GIS data management, and youth engagement. 
  • Funding and Service Gap Analysis completed. Compiled organizational structure and funding from all city departments, obtained benchmark data from other municipalities.
  • Urban Forest Inventory Analysis (UFIA) data collection, analysis, report completed. 
  • Planting Prioritization map utilizing 31 different points of data created to establish priority areas for tree planting to support human health and ecosystem services. To be updated in 2019.
  • Silva cell technology implemented at Republic Square.
  • Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) - Implementation is in progress and focuses resources on prevention and community preparedness. 
  • Urban Forest Stewards contracted with TreeFolks to support informed and active stewardship across Austin.
  • Certified Arborist Prep and COA Tree Maintenance Training for ground crews contracted to Arborholic to support tree care. 
  • Community Tree Report - A continual improvement tool featuring stewardship investment data related to Austin's urban forest. 
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