Two firms announced for Boston’s first Urban Forest Plan

Martin J. Walsh and Boston Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ryan Woods on Friday announced two consultants have been selected to develop Boston’s Urban Forest Plan.

Boston landscape architecture firm Stoss Landscape Urbanism and forestry consultant Urban Canopy Works have been selected to co-lead the effort to develop the City of Boston’s first Urban Forest Plan. Stoss was awarded the contract with Urban Canopy Works as a subconsultant. The 20-year plan will set citywide goals for canopy protection, be responsive to climate change and development, and enhance the quality of life for all Bostonians. The Urban Forest Plan will be a collaborative effort that includes a community advisory group, interdepartmental working group and community outreach. Recognizing that environmental injustice exists in Boston, the planning process will embed support for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by environmental stressors. Planning will touch upon a wide variety of topics, such as ecology, design, policy, practices and funding.

“Trees are an important part of making Boston’s communities resilient. This plan is the first of its kind in Boston, and it will expand and protect one of our most precious natural resources, while prioritizing the needs of our residents,” said Mayor Walsh. “Developing an urban forest plan is important to ensure our tree canopy in Boston is equitable, responsive to climate change and ensures quality of life for all Bostonians. This collaborative project with Stoss Landscape Urbanism and Urban Canopy Works will prioritize community input to ensure that residents in our neighborhoods have a central voice in this process.”

Said Woods, “It’s no coincidence that many of the communities disproportionately impacted by poor air quality and the urban ‘heat island’ effect, also have inadequate tree cover. We’re excited to collaborate with these partners to find opportunities for growing tree canopy in the places that need it most.”

The project team will also work closely with a community advisory group and an interdepartmental working group with input from residents, community organizations, businesses, and institutions. Kicking off in spring of 2021, the planning process will take approximately one year to complete. The community advisory group will be formed in late spring of this year. The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the plan in early fall, after the assessment and scoping phases.

One of the project tasks, along with scoping the project and assessing the existing state of the canopy, will be to develop a plan for engaging the community. The outreach plan will prioritize populations that have been disproportionately exposed to environmental stressors; be sensitive to differences in cultures, economic realities, and built environments across Boston; incorporate City of Boston Language and Communications Access guidelines; consider equity and accessibility in both in-person and online engagement strategies; and retain flexibility to adapt engagement strategies in response to changing public health recommendations.

Joining Stoss Landscape Urbanism and Urban Canopy Works, the plan will be developed with contributions from American Forests, Nitsch Engineering, PlanITGeo, local experts, and the public. Dr. Neenah-Estrella Luna will support the effort to make environmental justice the foundation of the project.

The final plan document will highlight policy tools to control canopy loss on private property, as well as guidelines for protecting and expanding canopy on public property, like streets and parks. Over the past five years, tree removals on residential, private, and institutional property have been the main contributors to canopy loss. The finalized plan will provide recommendations for canopy protection and expansion through proposed changes to the development review process, as well as new policies and ordinances, including draft language and methods of enforcement aimed at protecting and expanding the tree canopy.

The Urban Forest Plan is a critical piece of the vision for the City’s tree canopy goals laid out in Imagine Boston 2030 and Climate Ready Boston.

In addition to the $500,000 budgeted for the Urban Forest Plan, historic investments in Boston’s tree canopy this year will also support the hiring of a new arborist and the added capacity for up to 1,000 additional tree plants, doubling the total capacity to 2,000 trees planted per year. The Tree Canopy Assessment, released in September, supports efforts to increase access to trees and their benefits in “under-treed” neighborhoods, as a part of the City’s commitment to environmental justice. For more information about Boston’s Urban Forest Plan, please email [email protected].

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