Building a National Coalition

Four out of five Americans live in a city — and within those cities, natural areas make up 1.7 million acres of urban parkland. These natural areas contribute to the health and wellbeing of city residents, and provide critical environmental benefits. However, forests in cities are often at risk of being developed and degraded. Ensuring the health of these urban natural resources requires novel and collaborative efforts, both locally and nationally.

About the Forest in Cities Program

The Natural Areas Conservancy’s Forest in Cities program was created in 2019 to promote and advance healthy forested natural areas in cities across America through science, management, partnerships, and communications.

Who is Part of This Program?

The NAC is collaborating with expert teams from 17 metro regions across the United States. The teams were selected through a competitive process and are composed of forested natural areas practitioners working in nonprofits, municipal and county governments, academic institutions, and private contracting. The teams play a valuable role in the success of this program by sharing first hand experiences, contributing data and participating in research initiatives, and developing a community of practice.

Participating city teams include: Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Baltimore, MD; Billings, MT; Chicago, IL; Indianapolis, IN; Louisville, KY; Minneapolis-St.Paul, MN; St. Louis, MO; New Haven, CT; New York, NY; Miami, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Tampa-Hillsborough County, FL, Seattle- Puget Sound, WA, Houston, TX; Washington, DC

Forest in Cities Key Program Areas:

Nurture and grow a national network of experts. The NAC is galvanizing and strengthening a community of practice of individuals and organizations who manage, study, and advocate for forested natural areas in America’s cities. This national network is focused on building interdisciplinary and cross-sector partnerships, and the NAC facilitates large-scale meetings, events, and shared resources to meet the network's goals.

Advance urban forest science and practice. The science informing the management of urban forested natural areas is not well established, communicated, or rigorously tested. Forests in Cities aims to communicate and amplify successful practices, create new knowledge, and formulate consensus to find solutions to shared challenges and sustain healthy forests in cities for the future.

Advocate for increased resources and support. The NAC works with the Forest in Cities network to develop strategies that will raise awareness of the importance of urban natural areas in order to increase public, policy, and financial support at local and national scales.

Program Accomplishments: 2019

In March 2019, the NAC, The Trust for Public Land, and the Yale School for Forestry and Environmental Studies released “Untapped Common Ground: The Care of Forested Natural Areas in American Cities.” This report is based on our survey of 125 organizations in 111 cities and how they manage their forests.

In October 2019, the NAC hosted “Forests in Cities: A National Workshop” — a four-day convening of urban forestry leaders. Workshop attendees were joined by representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service and American Forests as they discussed shared challenges, explored opportunities for collaboration, and strategized on ways that forests in cities can be part of the climate solution.

As a result of the Forests in Cities workshop, the 12 city teams published 25 unique case studies about urban forested natural areas science and management in a special issue of the journal Cities and The Environment.

Program Accomplishments: 2020

Articles communicating the importance and value of urban forested natural areas and the emerging Forest in Cities network have been published on several platforms including The Nature of Cities, Meeting of the Minds, and City Lab.

The network conducted a study and released a national report that highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting America’s urban natural areas and the organizations that protect and care for them. Click to view a one page summary or the full report. The results of this study were also published in the Journal Frontiers in Sustainable Cities

Program Accomplishments: 2021

Forests in Cities members gathered virtually during our annual workshop.

We launched the Forests in Cities Resource Library. This publicly-accessible, easy-to-use online library contains peer-reviewed research, forest management plans, land and project assessment protocols, and more. FIC members contributed more than 100 resources to get started, and new resources are added weekly. This is the first digital library that collects and curates resources specifically for forested natural areas in cities.

The network conducted a study to quantify the potential for forests to store and sequester carbon across six U.S. cities (publication forthcoming).

Program Accomplishments: 2022

Five new cities were selected to join the Forests in Cities network: Atlanta, GA; Louisville, KY; Philadelphia, PA; New Haven, CT; and Washington D.C. The new cohort of cities is currently developing case studies that will be published in Cites and the Environment.

The network launched a study of the cooling potential of urban natural areas through a cross-country, twelve-city initiative. The results of this study will inform climate resiliency strategies through uncovering how natural areas contribute to cooling cities.

We look forward to hosting an in-person meeting for our network in November 2022 in Seattle Washington.

The Forest in Cities Program was made possible through support from the JPB Foundation and the Ittleson Foundation.