Glen Gorner, head of Leeds City Council’s forestry services told the recent Barcham Trees seminar about his department’s work
Leeds is our second largest metropolitan authority with a wood cover of 3,600 hectares and more than a million non-woodland trees. Re-structuring gave a more multi-discipline approach, in line with developing thoughts on the green infrastructure. The city regards trees as the main component of this infrastructure, and while it was initially slow to develop a core strategy the green infrastructure is now part of this. The recognition of a green infrastructure is the best thing which has happened to urban forestry.
‘Urban forestry’ was termed by Professor Erik Jorgensen of Toronto University back in the mid 1960s, and while it may have begun in Canada it was in the USA where it really took root. In the 1960s foresters realised that the political power base had shifted to cities and before long the urban forestry movement was having an affect on US government policy. Urban forestry came to Britain in the 1970s, where it was met with a degree of negativity from the Arboricultural Association. Mark Johnston believes it was because the term ‘forestry’ was regarded as a rural term and arborists resented this view, which has now largely disappeared.
The development of urban forestry in the UK was slow and it was not until 1988 that the first British conference on it – A Seed in Time – was held, followed by two more in 1991 and 1993. Our National Urban Forestry Unit was created in 1995, lifting the term from being just a buzzword to the accepted term for modern, planned urban tree management. The term has also become synonymous with ‘urban greening’.
Urban forestry has been termed as the relationship between arboriculture and urban forestry, with the former focused on individual trees and small groups and the latter focused on the management of an assemblage of trees employing both traditional arboricultural and forestry practices. It is characterised by a planned, systematic and integrated approach to trees. Commenting on this, Glen felt that integration was the most important aspect. Planned management is central to urban forestry and it should not be viewed in isolation from other elements of the urban environment – and it needs to be supported by a local authority’s tree strategy.
There are advantages to systematic management, not the least of which is that well and regularly maintained trees bring fewer complaints from the public. But it seems that too often responsibility for trees is split across different directorates, departments and sections. The way forward needs to be one of involvement of different disciplines. Trees then are the most important part of our green infrastructure and urban trees give a unique range of benefits to city dwellers. Glen Gorner concluded by saying the urban forestry canopy needs to measured and goals need to be set.
The New York City Forestry Service is integrated and managed from just one office. The staff there are well educated, specialised and motivated. Urban forestry integrates all green infrastructure services and plans are regularly revised and updated. There is excellent community involvement with singer Bette Midler as its figurehead. Some funding is sourced from outside organisations and a research agenda is also developing.
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