Urban and community forestry is the field of practice that stewards trees and forests in cities, suburbs, and towns, often with substantial civic engagement and institutional partnership. Objectives encompass everything from maintaining and improving water quality, habitat, and biodiversity, to improving public health and safety and capturing carbon. Urban and community forestry has multiple origin points that are distinct, but often converge.

Fast Facts:

Today, the federal Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) Program at the U.S. Forest Service supports the health of our Nation’s forests across the whole landscape and helps to preserve the unique sense of place that forests provide in cities and towns. By delivering information and tools to community managers, the program supports research-based and data-driven best practices in urban and community forestry, ultimately improving people’s lives by providing financial and technical assistance through state forestry agencies and creating jobs.  The program serves close to 8,000 communities annually that are home to more than 200 million residents in the United States.  Alongside the work of the UCF Program, the USDA Forest Service Research & Development branch provides leading-edge science and decision tools to inform the stewardship of all the nation’s trees and forests, many of which are located in urban, suburban, and community contexts.  Key urban sustainability research areas include urban forest inventory, health, and management; stewardship and engagement; and public health and well-being. 


Late 20th century

  • Tree City USA: launched in 1976 to give communities designation for meeting urban forestry standards.
  • Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978: formally creates urban forestry program within USDA Forest Service. The agency’s Research and Development hosts the first national conference.
  • American Forests, 1982: launches its first official urban forestry program and hosts the second National Urban Forest Conference. They begin advocacy for Congress to create a national level urban forestry policy.
  • 1990s-present: Forest Service Research and Development increases investment in urban research, locations, and partnerships (i-Tree, Revitalizing Baltimore, Chicago Wilderness, Urban Field Station network). American Forest continues hosting national conferences.

Early 21st century

  • organizations, movements, and institutions: urban forestry civic organizations professionalize; rise of public-private partnerships; proliferation of urban conservancy movement; creation of urban stewardship science (e.g. STEW-MAP), formation of the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition; development of urban forest mapping and monitoring tools.

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