Best Practices from Model Cities

Plans & Policies


Public-Private Partnerships

  • City of Sacramento and the Sacramento Tree Foundation:
    Check out the Greenprint Program that promotes regional sustainability and livability goals by expanding urban forests and optimizing the benefits of tree canopies.
  • New York City and Trees New York
    Check out their "Citizen Pruner" course that teaches residents about the care of young and newly planted trees. 
  • City of Fresno and Tree Fresno
  • City of San Jose and Our City Forest of course!

Tree Inventories

By Rachel Swaby

The Urban Forest Mapping Project is infoporn for the eco set. The open-source database, which launched Wednesday, gives anyone access to all sorts of information about 140,000 public trees in San Francisco. Believe it or not, there's actually a lot to track about a tree -- type, location, permit records, nasty parasites and miscellaneous pruning issues. Oh, and all the graffiti tags.

But that's just the start: Roughly 80 percent of the U.S. population either lives or works in urban environments, and local governments often struggle with tracking and maintaining their foliage. Typically -- as previously was the case in San Francisco -- troops of volunteers hit the streets with fill-in-the-blank paper forms and old-fashioned maps. Oftentimes, the crew would expect to find a group of trees based on historical records, but instead would find the trees missing (or, perhaps, incorrectly mapped in the first place). Then, there would be the two hours of data entry to set the record straight.

Now, info can be uploaded using handhelds and laptops through a web-based interface from the field. That makes for an annual savings of about $41,000, according to Amber Bieg, the development officer at Friends of the Urban Forest, a nonprofit dedicated to caring for the city's foliage. The organization worked with San Francisco's Bureau of Urban Forestry and software maker Autodesk to build the database.

The project came about when a proposal from Friends of the Urban Forest to develop an online tree-mapping tool landed on the same government desk as an offer from Autodesk. The Bay Area company was looking for a test case for its open-source MapGuide project. The result is an interface a la Google Maps -- color illustrations over aerial photography that's easily recognizable and packed with information.

For instance, using Stratum (for Street Tree Resource Analysis Tool for Urban Forest Managers), MapGuide can calculate the benefit (in dollars or environmental impact) of each tree. Homeowners can find out how a bottlebrush can raise their property value. There are also other bits of info: In the Mission District, for instance, certain trees will do better -- sequestering more storm water, reducing energy costs, etc.

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