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During our Forests in Cities annual workshop in Miami, we released a comprehensive report on land protections across the nation, featuring case studies from 10 cities in our network.

The report summarizes the main threats to urban forests today and strategies cities can use to minimize or negate these threats.

What are urban forested natural areas?

Diagram of different urban greenspace

Forested natural areas are larger in size and contain more biodiversity.

Urban forested natural areas are different from other urban green spaces, such as landscaped parks and street and yard trees. Generally, urban forests are larger in size and contain more biodiversity, species composition, and structural complexity.

The report stresses the importance of treating urban forested natural areas as holistic systems, as opposed to managing trees individually. This holistic approach ensures that an ecosystem stays intact, with multiple forest layers and age classes present.

What are the current threats?

With increased urbanization and densification across the United States, cities face competing priorities for space. Urban forests are often seen as “undeveloped land,” making them at risk of being cleared and converted to other uses. At a high level, the main threats to forested natural areas are:

  1. Development: High cost and limited land availability make urban forests an easy target for development.
  2. Infrastructure: Installation and management of sewer lines, electric lines, and water mains, often located underground in forested areas, can result in collateral damage to the forest.
  3. Land use conversion: Urban forests are often converted for other uses, such as ball fields, parking lots, and picnic areas.
  4. Degradation: Extreme weather, invasive species, and pests can make managing forests time-consuming and expensive.

What tools can cities use to protect urban forests?

A bar graph depicting most common strategies for land protections

The number of cities in our network utilizing each strategy for land protection.

  • Tree ordinance
  • Clean water regulation
  • Zoning/land use restriction
  • Land acquisition
  • Endangered species regulation
  • Natural areas ordinance

To explore specific case studies, and learn more about these land protections tools, read the full report.

person walks on paved road in a forest

Interested in our other reports?

Check out our Cooling Cities blog post for another example of how we’ve leveraged our network to amplify the importance of forested natural areas and the need to protect them.

Read the blog post

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