Planting For The Future

As the first step in managing its urban forest, FAB personnel undertook a baseline tree inventory in 2009. Data were collected from 233 field plots randomly selected within city boundaries. The trees in each plot were characterized by species, size, approximate age, condition and location.

Data were analyzed using the Urban Forest Effects (UFORE) model, a U.S. Forest Service-developed software employing standardized field data, combined with local hourly air pollution and meteorological data to quantify urban forest structure and its environmental effects. UFORE’s cost-benefit analysis calculates the costs of servicing street and park trees.

These services include planting, pruning, removal, sidewalk repair, storm- and liability-management and pest-management expenses, versus the benefits derived from trees through energy conservation, atmospheric contaminant removal, stormwater-runoff control, carbon storage and increased property values.

The UFORE software specifically puts a dollar value on trees in an urban/suburban setting. Among the city’s key findings:

Number of trees: 2,965,000

Tree cover: 22.4 percent

Pollution removal: 515 metric tons/year ($2.94 million/yr)

Carbon storage: 374,000 metric tons ($8.54 million)

Building energy savings: $2.8 million/year

Structural values: $2.75 billion.

Armed with the UFORE analysis and other tools, such as aerial mapping and GPS canopy data, FAB is able to:

• Develop a management plan and budget for its charges

• Track changes in species diversity, tree condition and distribution

• Target specific areas for remediation

• Proactively recommend measures to improve the health of the urban forest.

This vital information will allow policymakers to make educated decisions regarding land use, resource allocation and long-term city goals.


Let’s Enhance Arlington’s Forest (LEAF) is the flagship program of FAB, designed to bring quality trees to neighborhoods, businesses and public spaces at no cost to the recipient. The idea for the program stemmed from the principles of:

• Reinvigorating neighborhoods while educating citizens on the benefits of trees

• Increasing the attractiveness and livability of the city

• Building community through civic and environmental responsibility

• Improving air and water quality.

Since its inception in fall 2007, more than 2,000 trees have been provided to Arlington taxpayers through LEAF. Each planting season, the program grows in popularity with increasing numbers of households, commercial establishments and non-profits seeking the free trees. Everyone is quickly learning that trees help with energy bills, water runoff and heat islands, and that shading and beautifying property with trees saves money and adds to the property’s value at the same time.

Another important aspect of Arlington’s reforestation effort is the tree farm. Here many varieties of native and well-adapted trees are cared for until they are needed to replace public trees lost elsewhere. The container-raised trees at the farm are watered by drip irrigation, and volunteers keep them free of weeds and are well-supported to withstand high winds.

Environmental Conservation And Education

One of the newest endeavors of FAB is preserving natural habitats through education of citizens and decision-makers. When fully developed, this program will involve the recruitment and training of volunteers to help spread the word in the community about the benefits of trees and proper land use. Additionally, FAB will seek out partners and design programs to ensure that the natural areas remain natural.

In 2009, FAB staff began working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to create an environmental education component for schools, events and forestry camps, focusing on conservation of trees, water, prairies and wildlife. Seed money for program development is available through USFWS or grant sources. As in most FAB activities, volunteers play a critical role in planning and implementing this program.

Future Goals

FAB has a list of goals to be added as the division grows:

• Convert to drip irrigation in all applicable areas

• Use drought-tolerant plants in city parks and medians

• Turn off seasonal water meters

• Establish median standards, and develop a median-certification program

• Create an organic program for fertilization and pest control

• Develop environmentally sustainable maintenance practices

• Evaluate the existing tree ordinance.

Matt Churches is the city forester. For more information, visit

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Related posts:

  1. A Budding Future
  2. Tree Propagation
  3. Planting Trees During A Drought
  4. Round Rock Tree-Planting Program
  5. A Disc-Golf Course In The Woods

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