Managing the Urban Forest
Goal: Achieve Springfield’s climate justice goals via enhancing the quality of the City’s urban forest through proper species selection and planning, increased tree canopy cover, adequate care and maintenance, and public education on the value of trees in an urban setting.
Springfield has a long-standing commitment to urban forestry. Because of the extensive damage to the tree canopy in the 2011 tornado, managing trees earns its own category of actions. During the course of public engagement for Strong, Healthy and Just (SHJ), we heard a number of concerns related to resilience and tree canopy in Springfield. Trees can enhance resilience, but they are also a “threat multiplier”. Trees may pose safety issues in a weather-related disaster. If a tree planted too closely to underground or overhead utility lines uproots or falls, it may destroy that infrastructure, posing possible health and economic vulnerabilities. Trees in poor health can also lose limbs and potentially damage property or directly harm residents. Further, poorly placed vegetation can block sight lines along roadways, increasing the likelihood of motor vehicle accidents.
Possible strategies to reduce these concerns include choosing the “right tree for the right place,” which will ensure environmental safety and increase specimen health. Continued attention to proper tree care and maintenance will also reduce the risk of tree-related hazards. At the time of this plan development, the forestry department has no funding to plant new trees within Springfield. They are funded to maintain and care for existing trees and remove those that pose safety concerns. In order to reach a 100% stocking rate within the City, they would need to replace trees at a 2:1 ratio. Currently, the city is losing about 700 trees per year. Unfortunately, HUD doesn’t consider trees to be part of the resilience strategy defined in the NDRC grant, so Springfield’s forestry proposal was unfunded when the City was awarded the grant. Springfield can take advantage of its Gateway City designation, which funds private tree plantings within the city including education and outreach activities. Possible strategies to reduce this concern include identifying and securing sustainable funding sources for planting trees within the city.
- Identify and secure sustainable funding sources for annual tree planting.
- Identify and secure sustainable funding sources for tree care and maintenance of public trees.
- Focus planting efforts in neighborhoods with the greatest risk of urban heat island (UHI) effect and the lowest tree canopy.
- By 2022, plant 5,600 trees on public property and by 2060 achieve 100% stocking levels and have planted an additional 55,000 trees on public property.
- By 2022, plant 300 trees per neighborhood on private property for a total of 5,400 trees across Springfield’s 18 neighborhoods.
- Secure funding and develop an incentive program for planting trees on private properties.
- Implement a city-wide “best management practices for green infrastructure” policy.