What is an Urban Forest?
“Urban Forest” refers to the trees and vegetation in urban and suburban areas—street trees, landscape trees and plants, and the remnants of the wild forest. This urban forest functions as an ecological unit and provides important benefits to urban residents.
What is Community Forestry?
Community Forestry is a collaborative approach to managing the urban forest. It brings together City government, residents, and other local stakeholders to shape the policies and practices that affect our forest resources. Community forestry promotes education, dialogue, and voluntary stewardship to protect the health and integrity of the urban forest.
Lake Oswego’s Community Forestry Program began in 2006 as a grand-funded project through Northwest Service Academy, which has provided AmeriCorps members to manage the program. The City, with the AmeriCorps member organized a series of public events to create public dialogue on forestry issues and identify priorities for the program. This feedback, along with interdepartmental efforts among City staff resulted in the Urban and Community Forestry Plan adopted by City Council in February, 2008. The plan synthesizes existing tree-related policies and procedures, best management practices, expert knowledge and citizen input to create a vision for the future of Urban and Community Forestry in Lake Oswego.
Benefits of the Urban Forest
Many factors contribute to a high quality of life in Lake Oswego. Few things contribute more to Lake Oswego’s livability than its natural beauty. The abundant groves, flourishing street trees, densely wooded parks and open spaces attest greatly to the City’s charm and character. Trees contribute generously to private landscapes, and provide privacy and noise buffers between land uses. The mere presence of trees puts people at ease, as evident in multiple studies that show people maintain more vigorous health and mental faculties when trees are present in their neighborhoods or visible from their windows .
The aesthetic value of Lake Oswego’s urban forest is matched, if not surpassed, by the forest’s environmental functions. Research by the organization American Forests shows that investment in green infrastructure is cost effective for communities . Communities that invest in their urban forests alongside traditional infrastructure are more livable and sustainable in the long term.
Reduce Energy Costs
Shade from trees reduces the need for air conditioning in summer by up to 30%. By breaking the force of winds in the winter, trees reduce heat loss from your home by up to 50%; effectively lowering energy bills. The cooling shade from trees works on outdoor infrastructure too; keeping pavement shaded reduces urban temperatures by up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, and lengthens pavement life.
Clean the Air
Trees reduce the impact of greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. They improve air quality by reducing the formation of smog and capturing airborne dust particles on their leaves. By reducing the heating and cooling needs of homes and buildings, they also effectively reduce emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect.
Slow Runoff and Prevent Erosion
Leaves break the force of rain, reducing flooding by percolating water into the soil instead of quickly running off. Trees play a crucial role in holding the soil in place on steeper hillsides, preventing erosion and improving water quality.
Produce Economic Benefits
Studies show that consumers spend more and shop longer in retail areas where trees are present . Trees along streets and on private property can increase property values up to 20% .
Trees provide habitat for many types of desirable wildlife. Along with shrubs and other plants, they create protection from the elements and predators, a place to rest and sleep, and nesting sites for rearing their young. Many animals use tree foliage, nuts and fruit as a source of sustenance.