Take stock in urban forests; inventory helps sustain healthy trees

Measuring Trees
Tree measurements are taken when assessing urban forests

Tree inventories help communities plan for a safe, healthy, sustainable community tree resource. Homeowners on urban lots can usually do the inventory from memory. Not so, for an urban forester who may have thousands of trees to look after. For them, a more detailed inventory can provide important data about the structure, value, and function of trees which, in turn, helps the community develop a plan to manage its community forest and achieve community goals. Here’s why communities should inventory their trees.

Have you ever started making a cake – mixing, sifting, beating, and then suddenly find you don’t have that last crucial ingredient? Or maybe you’ve built a deck and had to run to the hardware store on the other side of town 15 times to get the parts you forgot?

Whether you’re baking a cake, building a deck, or managing trees, if you start with an idea of what you want (your goals), then take stock of what you have (inventory your resources) before you develop a plan, your efforts to reach your goals will be more effective and efficient.

The information a community collects in its first tree inventory will help to set a benchmark for future urban forestry management. The tree inventory will be a working document that guides both day-to-day and long-range decision-making.

The first step in an inventory is to set goals and objectives by considering community needs and priorities. Standard goals include risk and emergency management, health and sustainability of the tree population, maintenance planning, and tracking work history. Or, maybe the goal is for more shade in neighborhoods and parks, or a more inviting downtown business district. Goals and objectives will determine what information to collect in the inventory.

When tree inventories are conducted, it is important to consider longevity of the data and the use of that data. These issues should be determined in advance and included as an objective. Ongoing, active inventories are useful as a basis for management and budgeting decisions, which track day-to-day maintenance activities.

How does a tree inventory help achieve goals? It records the location and characteristics of trees, assesses individual trees, and identifies planting spaces for future trees. It provides a picture in time of the tree resource, pointing out maintenance and management concerns. It shows what’s already present and what plan of action is needed to manage the community forest, including developing long-term management plans, policies, and ordinances that care for, protect, and expand the urban and community forest.

Find out more about urban forest inventories: Community Guide to Urban Forest Inventories or call DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry at 1-800-523-8733.