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FOREST INK: Sustainability of community and urban forests

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Cariboo Observer
Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.

A few weeks ago I agreed to meet someone in a parking lot during one of the hottest sunny days and soon found out the prime parking spots were near the shade trees.

I also enjoy the trees around my house, but they come with some downsides. Conifers are a fire hazard if too close to buildings, not to mention the litter fall that needs weekly removal from the rain gutters.

Many new homeowners are often attracted by a nice stand of trees only to find out the large trees can be a costly liability if they start to show some defects.

The proper planning and maintenance of trees and shrubs is a long-term commitment, and fortunately, there are some good resources.

The second draft of a new paper came out this summer and the public is again asked to make comments. Unfortunately, the deadline will be passed by the time you read this article, but it is still worthwhile to keep it as a future resource. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Urban and Community Forest Sustainability Standard Second Draft Summer 2022 is a must-read for anyone involved with the planning and maintenance of urban forests.

The introduction includes the language we would expect from this kind of publication. Trees close to home help us combat climate change by capturing greenhouse gases and mitigating the heating of cities while improving public health and well-being, providing recreation space, and so much more.

“Urban and community forestry is essential to maximizing the benefits provided by forests and trees while minimizing the risks they can pose in our cities and towns. Considering the value of the benefits and how many people around the world live in cities and towns, maintaining the vitality of these resources is essential.

Urban and community forests face significant threats, such as from climate change; invasive and native insects, animals, plants, and diseases; water shortages, and so on. To counter these threats, raise awareness, and to assist communities in managing these resources, SFI has engaged the urban forestry sector to create a standard for sustainable urban and community forests.”

With offices in Canada and the United States, standards are being developed as minimum guidelines for appropriate planning, management, and care of a resource and their associated benefits and risks.

“The standards are based on five guiding principles:

Urban forests and trees are vital for community well-being, health, resiliency, and sustainability.

Urban forests and trees require proper planning, care, and management to optimize benefits and minimize risks.

Urban forests and trees depend upon understanding, awareness, appreciation, and engagement by people to thrive in communities.

Urban forests and trees and their associated benefits should be accessible and available to everyone.

Urban forests and trees are nature-based solutions to pressing issues and essential green infrastructure. “

The paper goes on to describe in considerable detail the following 16 categories using performance measures and indicators: “1: Community and People 2: Human Health and Well-being 3: Conservation and Protection of Biodiversity 4: Stewardship of Natural Resources including Air; Water, and Soil 5: Forest and Tree Health and Vitality 6: Special Sites including Natural Areas 7: Climate-Smart Management 8: Urban Forest Planning 9: Management and Care of Urban Forests and Trees 10: Disaster Readiness, Response, and Recovery 11: Capacity Building 12: Urban Wood Utilization 13: Communications 14: Science, Research, and Technology 15: Legal and Regulatory Compliance and 16: Reporting.”

I recommend the report not only for your personal use around the home and garden but to also get an idea of what urban planners are faced with.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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