Urban Forestry Planning
Planning is a method for achieving an end, a detailed formulation of a program of action, or an orderly arrangement of parts of an overall design or objective. Planning is the process of establishing goals, policies, and procedures for a social or economic unit. Some people believe the planning process culminates with the publication of a document that presents detailed instructions for reaching a goal, but it does not end there. The final result of planning is the attainment of the goals, not publication of the plan.

Planning for the infinite future could be a daunting task, so the process is generally divided into smaller components: long-range, short-range, and site-specific. Long-range planning tends to be extensive, broadly worded, and enforced through a legally adopted comprehensive plan. Often, these comprehensive plans are refined to specifically address development with regional impacts. Short-range planning, also known as current planning, tends to be explicit, and is enforced through zoning ordinances. Site specific land development regulations may overlap zoning ordinances.

Long-range Planning
Long-range planning mainly concerns growth management, and encompasses the preparing, maintaining, and updating of a comprehensive plan. State government establishes guidelines that must be met by comprehensive plans at the state, region, and county levels. Urban forestry concerns must be reflected in comprehensive planning. By adopting the plan, government officials signify their support for trees in the urban environment.
Comprehensive plans generally contain, among other things, elements that address the environment and transportation. Both of these elements should contain references to trees as they relate to the urban infrastructure. The environmental element should identify the need for preservation of the natural environment within developed areas. This element should also contain language calling for planting, maintenance, and preservation of native and introduced species along streets and in other open spaces. The transportation element should incorporate aesthetic considerations in the development of traffic circulation systems, and in providing for adequate right-of-way for tree planting.

Short-range Planning
These plans help achieve desirable land-use allocation and distribution based on an assessment of the cumulative impact to a given area. Short-range plans usually serve to refine comprehensive plans and development proposals. They are enforced through zoning ordinances. Supporters of urban forestry can use the short-range plans to document areas in need of special attention. This may include preservation of critical habitat, development of tree-lined corridors or beautification of major entrances to the community. Including these concerns in the short-range planning process helps solidify support from planning staff and local decision makers.

Site Specific Planning
Planning for a specific site also has several levels: conceptual, schematic, and master. Conceptual planning illustrates possible physical forms and relationships between various elements of the project. This phase may even be done before a site is selected. Schematic planning may develop several design alternatives for a specific site, but not in enough detail to implement them. Once a schematic design is selected, the master plan refines the design and adds details. Based on an approved master plan, designers produce development plans, which may be reviewed by building, zoning or transportation departments.


Site specific planning includes efforts concentrated on site plan review. Enforced through land development regulations, this level of planning affects preservation and planting of trees on particular sites. Significant individual trees or entire stands may be planted, saved or removed based on a plan at this level. So regardless of the contents of higher level plans, site specific plans should be scrutinized before approval is given. Before development, sites should be inspected to verify that plans have been drawn correctly and that tree protection measures comply with development regulations.

Management Planning
Then there are management plans, which define the overall scope and methodology of certain operations, such as urban forestry or transportation service.

Urban forestry management plans generally follow the planning process mentioned previously. They may also include: maintenance standards, tree inventories, work record processing, planting, removals, reforestation, rotation planting, phased removal, tree selection processes, design criteria, personnel training and development, budgets, coordination within an agency, as well as with other agencies and citizens.

Two specific types of management plans-tree inventory system planning and long-range tree rotation planning-deserve further description. These types of management plans are important because of their effect on the efficiency of urban forestry operations, their impact on budget justifications, and the potential for conflict within the community.

Tree inventory system planning is a method for obtaining and organizing information about the number, condition, and distribution of urban trees. Information that is accurate, accessible, and simple is one of the best tools for making planning and management decisions. With tree inventory information, program resources can be allocated appropriately among the various tree management functions, work can be scheduled for maximum efficiency, and financial decision-makers can evaluate various work plan proposals by comparing expected results with projected budgets.

Several inventory systems have been developed by cities, universities, extension services, and consulting firms. They range from quick, inexpensive survey methods that provide basic information to sophisticated, computerized systems that are integrated with daily tree care activities. A Guide to Urban Tree Inventory Systems was developed by the School of Forest Resources at Pennsylvania State University in 1979. It contains a general review of the characteristics of urban tree inventory systems, as well as profiles of 25 systems and references to 24 other inventories.

All inventories share the same general goal-to provide information about the nature of the urban forest. Most inventories have several objectives. The simplest systems might provide information to support the establishment of a tree care budget, start a community tree program, or at least, initiate a tree advisory board. At this level, the desired information may be as simple as three estimates: the total number of trees, their average condition, and their monetary value.


Computerized systems may be used to justify and prepare annual budgets, organize daily work assignments, keep records on individual trees, aid long-range planning, and support management analyses. These types of inventory systems link day-to-day operations with long-range planning.

Long-range tree replacement or rotation plans should be based on inventory information. Because tree removal or replacement generates community concern, citizens and policy makers should both be involved in the process.

The basic elements of a rotation plan

Criteria for tree removal;
Complete versus phased removal;
Diversity versus monoculture in replacement species;
Management plan for replacement activities; and

Fiscal budget.
Criteria for tree removal form the basis for objectivity in the midst of the emotional furor that often develops over tree removal in urban areas. Objective criteria would include: current and future maintenance costs, years of estimated useful life, structural integrity, and public welfare. Because they are more subjective, the following items should be considered only as secondary criteria: diminishing aesthetics, amenities, and engineering values, such as noise abatement and wind reduction.

Removal recommendations must clearly identify priorities for tree removal. These priorities could become a sequence for removal. Dead or dying trees might be first. Second would be trees representing a potential hazard to adjacent property, buildings, parked cars or people. Next might be stumps from trees cut previously. The final category could be trees growing in undesirable locations.

Complete versus phased removal is one important decision that must be made before a management plan for tree removal is developed. Complete removal, as the name suggests, is the removal of all trees within a given area in one operation. In phased removal, a predetermined portion of a stand is removed on a schedule covering a period of years. Where space allows, new trees can be planted among existing ones that have been scheduled for removal. This approach, known as interplanting, encourages age diversity in the stand and minimizes aesthetic and environmental impacts of large-scale tree removal. Interplanting copies nature by providing new trees to take over before older trees come down.

Diversity or monoculture in tree species replacement will usually be an issue in most communities. Species diversity stabilizes the urban forest and tends to reduce losses due to harmful insects or disease. While having similar maintenance requirements is a primary consideration in species selection, large-scale monocultures should be avoided. Diversity also offers the adjacent property owners some individuality. Again, citizen involvement is valuable in developing the rotation plan.

Management planning for replacement trees must ensure the long-range maintenance for these replacement trees. Young trees require considerable care, such as watering, fertilizing, insect and disease control, and regularly scheduled pruning. Any plan must ensure long-range maintenance to protect the investment of public funds in replanting. For example, scheduled trimming of young trees reduces the need for expensive corrective pruning of mature trees.

Budget and long-range funding for tree replacement is an obvious element of the basic rotation plan. Many of the criteria mentioned previously will provide meaningful budget information. Cost/benefit approaches are helpful in justifying tree rotation plans, because policy makers often reduce programs to dollars and cents.

Work Plans
Work plans fill in the details by guiding operations through specific periods of time (from several months to several years) and through specific locations (from a park to a watershed). Because on-going projects need funds, allocated budgets are an essential element of work plans. Because work plans generally address active projects, they change periodically as the projects change. Work plans might address specific planting projects, new tree care, care of established trees or implementation of a tree inventory.
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