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Austin's Urban Forestry Board is currently engaging the community to develop Austin’s first comprehensive Urban Forest Plan. This plan will help shape and protect the future of Austin’s urban forest. The Board needs your help in determining the priorities and needs of Austin’s Urban Forest, so SpeakUp! now and share your thoughts on these topics!

For more information, please visit Austin Urban Forest Plan’s website, austinurbanforestry.org or the website for the Urban Forestry Board, austintexas.gov/ufb.

Topic: Urban Forest

There is sometimes confusion when it comes to what qualifies as an Urban Forest. Is it trees, vegetation, one or the other, or both? Is it public or private? Where is the Urban Forest? Please define for us what you think makes up the Urban Forest.

41 Responses

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Garret Nick almost 2 years ago

any area shaded by vegetation that stands at least 6 feet off the ground? 8 feet? i think of a "forest" as being something you can at least walk under/in.

2 Votes
 
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Heather H almost 2 years ago

Trees and vegetation--mostly public, since we don't require much of private owners in the way of vegetation or canopy. Something that's often lost in the "urban forest" discussion is its role as a habitat for urban wildlife that's trying to stay out of our way. Not just birds and squirrels, but racoons, possums, and the occasional fox need brush for shelter and sustainance. I agree with others about including edibles in urban forest areas--not just for humans, but for all wildlife.

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Jared Mahoney almost 2 years ago

I'm a little off topic here,but I think an important first step would be to identify all the greenbelts around Austin and protect them. There are many large wooded areas around the city, public and private that may not be protected. For example, there is a large greenbelt off Dessea Rd between Rundberg and Braker. This is near Pioneer Farms and definitely an area that drains into Walnut Creek. It's only a matter of time before this land is bought by a home developer...

As far as defining "Urban Forest", I think some of the older neighborhoods in Austin with an abundance of mature trees would qualify for that term. Take a southbound drive on Mesa Dr. from Spicewood Springs Rd. That whole area is an Urban forest if you ask me. The Bouldin Creek neighborhood is another good example. Shoal Creek Blvd, etc.

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Austin Citizen almost 2 years ago

Cities are inherently collective so it would make sense to define the urban forest as both private and public space; everything from city-owned greenbelts/parks to tree-lined streets. The trees on our lot contribute to the collective urban forest and help reduce (even if just a little bit) the urban heat island effect for the city and region. They directly benefit us by shading the house, lowering the electric bill, improving aesthetics/curb appeal, but also shade the sidewalk and street making it more comfortable and pleasant for pedestrians and bicyclists passing by. In a city, almost everything we do on or to our property impacts others, positively or negatively; it impacts our neighbors, our neighborhood and the city as a whole. We're all in this together so be good to your community- plant more trees! (*loose definition includes shade trees, smaller understory trees, fruit/nut trees, large shrubs (natural, not pruned into a lame, sad attempt at English formal gardens) vegetables, herbs, flowers= anything that captures sunlight and turns it into something beautiful/edible/beneficial through the process of photosynthesis)

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Caroline Homer almost 2 years ago

"Forest" describes a dynamic layered ecosystem characterized by trees as the dominant, essential feature but also including multiple distinct, vertical plant layers including the forest floor (soil and decomposed detritus from plants and wildlife), soft-stemmed herbaceous plants (grasses, ferns, mosses, flowers), woody low-growing shrubs, and understory vegetation (smaller trees, vines, larger shrubs) underneath a larger tree canopy. A forest provides shelter and habitat for all manner of life from the microbiota (bacteria, fungi) in the forest soil to animals, birds, insects and other invertebrates (worms, slugs, snails), reptiles (lizards, snakes) and amphibians (frogs, toads), even the occasional marsupial (opossums) and crustacean (pillbugs). Forests contain symbiotic relationships as well as food webs or chains. While trees can certainly exist outside a forest, a forest is not defined by trees alone. "Urban" describes a forest located within a city, which includes both public and private lands, man-made development and infrastructure, impacted by human social, political and economic systems.

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Heidi Johnson, Dr. almost 2 years ago

While I agree with everyone that trees are the most wonderful component of an urban forest, especially in a place that needs shade as much as Texas, I want to add my voice to those who mention other forms of vegetation. Austin is at the tail-end of the Great Plains, so grasslands are a part of our native ecology, too. Grasses are beautiful, hardy, carbon-absorbing, oxygen-producers that provide important food and habitat for many of our fellow creatures. I would love to see the waste spaces, like traffic medians and highway edges, planted with native grass mixes. So to me, the Urban Forest is the whole ecosystem within which we build our city, including woodlands, grasslands, riparian areas, rocky uplands. One of the best features of Austin is the variety of ecological regions we get to enjoy. I'd like to see our Urban Forest reflect and support them all, as appropriate. And I hope our planning will include all the other species that natively inhabit these ecosystems, too. We're not the only ones on the planet: we have a responsibility to make sure we make room for the rest.

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