Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP)
The Plan provides strategic direction for Edmonton entire urban forest.
The City of Edmonton started the Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) in 2006 with 10 year a timeframe. The project enables affected stakeholders to provide strategic direction for Edmonton’s entire urban forest. Edmonton's geography offers a unique river valley comprising the longest stretch of connected urban parkland in North America (111 km2).
The main UFMP objectives are:
- effectively preserve, enhance, manage, sustain, and ensure growth in the Edmonton urban forest
- educate the public on the importance of the urban forest
- protect native forest and tree species in collaboration with Edmonton Office of Biodiversity
Main steps and instruments in realising UFMP are planting and preserving trees, planning new methods for a water supply, communicating with inhabitants concerning tree issues, and developing management plans for natural forest and tree species. In 2009, an evaluating on the impact of the tree population pointed to environmental, economic, social, and health benefits. Existing and newly planted trees improve air / water quality, diminish energy costs, and increase property values.
Steps and instruments in this project are easily transferable to other cities. General awareness of the importance of trees within the city increases, planting, and tree preservation is possible in many cities.
Background and objectives
The Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) faces various challenges and problems.
Ecologically, a major problem in large cities is air and water pollution through industry and use of individualised means of transport. A city without trees would hardly be able to provide healthy living conditions for inhabitants. Therefore a main UFMP objective is the environmental aspect of improving air and water quality consumed by inhabitants. Another ecological problem in cities is high energy consumption throughout the whole year. By planting and preserving trees, the City of Edmonton is aiming to reduce consumption. The third ecological challenge is connected to storm water. High amounts of rainfall can cause damage in the city and pollution in the river when rainwater washes dirt into the river.
Economically, the main UFMP objective is to reduce energy costs. Another objective is increasing land and property values. Social/health problems in city life are diverse. Stress caused by noise, lack of aesthetic values in city architecture, or the speed of traffic decrease qualities of life within a city. UFMP has the objective to reduce these unpleasant urban life factors. Trees are also able to absorb ultraviolet (UV) rays and to offer shade.
The entire Edmonton population is concerned by the Plan. Furthermore, visitors to Edmonton, such as tourists or guests, are able to experience outcomes in a 'greener' city. The City of Edmonton is trying to attract tourists with this argument.
The Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) with its three main objectives (environmental, economic and social) is organised in conjunction with and executed by the Edmonton City departments in Community Services and Sustainable Development and Infrastructure Services. There are diverse strategies for every objective, entailing multiple timeframes. Timeframes (1 to 3 years, 4 to 7 years and 8 to 10 years) are listed precisely in the planning document (see the Forest Urban Management Plan in Resources)
The following summary features main strategies in these three objectives and gives examples for present practices in the City of Edmonton.
Effectively preserving, enhancing, managing, sustaining, and ensuring growth in Edmonton urban forest.
The six short-term strategies and action steps include:
- plans for afforestation,
- establishing trees with best management practices,
- enhancing design specifications and development practices for sustainability in consultation with associated stakeholders, identifying resources for UFMP,
- searching for new methods of supplying adequate water,
- and developing strategies to reduce natural disaster impacts on the urban forest.
The City of Edmonton replaces all trees lost due to drought, infrastructure renewal, and construction projects as resources become available. To maintain tree health and safety, an annual tree health assessment is carried out on approximately one half of all publicly owned trees, alternating between the north and south sides of the North Saskatchewan River; trees are pruned, treated, removed, and replaced based on this assessment. Specific strategies and actions are implemented in conjunction with stakeholders affected, e.g. incorporating best management practices and emerging industry standards. Medium-term strategy is determining how the urban forest can contribute to low-impact development concepts and ecological network. Long-term strategy connects research in best practices for tree protection with developing guidelines and public education material.
Educating the public, other agencies, neighbouring communities and community partners on the importance of the urban forest and best management practices.
There are six short-term strategies and action steps including:
- communicating about tree pest issues,
- increasing awareness about urban forest management issues,
- developing local and regional information-sharing networks,
- communicating about ecological and health benefits of trees,
- stewardship opportunities for citizens and communities,
- and promoting long-term establishment and health of trees on local roadways; buffers; parks; school grounds; and natural areas.
Publicly owned trees are monitored for tree health and possible pest and disease infestation.
Medium-term strategy is to increase awareness of benefits from reducing environmental impact. The City of Edmonton Forestry Unit provides and facilitates on-going training opportunities for staff and industry.
A long-term strategy is establishing apartnership with post-secondary educational institutions to encourage research and development in urban forest knowledge. The City of Edmonton Forestry Unit plays an important role in fostering regional cooperation on urban forestry issues.
Protecting native forest and tree species in collaboration with Edmonton Office of Biodiversity.
There are two short-term strategies and action steps including work with stakeholders affected to protect natural areas, with emphasis on naturally treed environments and reviewing and updating the 2012 Naturalisation Master Plan. The City of Edmonton monitors the interface between natural areas and private properties to ensure the safety of abutting properties. The long-term strategy is to perform a risk assessment on the natural forest and tree species and develop associated management plans. The City of Edmonton uses best management practices to maintain representative native tree species.
Financing and resources
The Forestry, Beautification and Environmental Management Section is part of the Neighbourhood Parks and Community Recreation branch in the Community Services Department. Key responsibilities include procuring, maintaining, protecting, and preserving trees on city property. There are also resources used outside the Community Services Department, e.g. knowledge and research by universities or help from private sector entities and community groups.
The City of Edmonton maintains a total of 309,000 ornamental trees. The value of these trees is over 1.2-billion CAD. An average boulevard tree is worth 2,400 CAD- 8,000 CAD and can be as much as 58,000 CAD for elm trees larger than 102 cm in diameter. Currently 20,000 trees in City of Edmonton inventory are on vacant sites. The annual tree maintenance budget is 5,695,000 CAD.
Results and impacts
Trees act as a natural filtering system, decreasing the volume of dust, carbon, ozone, heavy metals, etc. Furthermore, trees moderate temperatures in both the summer and winter, reducing energy needed for heating and cooling. Trees also help reduce damage from storm water within the city by absorbing rainfall, or delaying flow into drainage areas. By reducing energy needed for heating and cooling throughout the whole year, energy costs are reduced by up to 25%. There are also increased land and property values by up to 20% near green spaces.
Due to the fact that UFMP is still running, there is no final evaluation, but in August 2009, the City of Edmonton contracted a company, Banister Research & Consulting Inc. (Banister Research) to conduct the Urban Forest Management Plan Citizen Survey. Survey results were mainly positive; the majority of inhabitants involved stated that forest management costs are justifiable. Impacts on other policy fields are hard to measure, because there are no unique impacts. Building policy for example both benefits from higher land and property values and is disadvantaged due to less available building sites within Edmonton because of UFMP.
Barriers and challenges
The Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) has been integrated into existing urban strategic plans for Edmonton known as 'The Way Ahead', which focuses on improving city infrastructure and overall quality of life. However, there is sometimes resistance to turning city parks into natural forest because many people simply assume a park should be 'manicured' with vast open space. Planners and designers need to educate the public about the environmental benefits and conjure up contemporary designs for traditional parks. It is therefore highly important to educate the public, other agencies, neighbouring communities, and community partners on the importance of the urban forest, relevant forestry issues and best management practices.
Lessons learned and transferability
The Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) is a living document providing strategies and action to help Edmonton wisely manage the urban forest. With this guiding document to hand, the next step will be to develop an implementation plan to ensure that Edmonton continues to have a diverse and sustainable urban forest able to enhance wellbeing and quality of life. The implementation plan will focus on strategies and action plans outlined, identifying system indicators, responsible parties, timelines, and future budget requirements. Edmonton Principal of Forestry will create and carry out the implementation plan in collaboration with project partners responsible for each action. Main success factors attribute to involving affected stakeholders in UFMP, transparent planning and communication of project costs and benefits, and a public opinion survey about UFMP within implementation.
UFMP is easily transferable to other cities around the world, as long as there is a willingness to start an environmental project and ability to provide large spaces for planting trees. UFMP guidelines can be used as a pattern in other cases. If transferred, Urban Forest Management Plans could also affect characteristics in other cities involving climatic differences in planting trees. There is also the possibility of planting food-producing trees, improving inhabitants' nutrition. Edmonton is not the only city to implement UFMP. The cities of Seattle or Toronto for example are also carrying out similar plans.