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​​What is Urban Forestry?

Urban and community forestry is an increasingly familiar term in our large cities and small rural towns. Urban forests are the trees outside our front doors.  They are dynamic ecosystems that provide critical benefits to our communities, and come in many different shapes and sizes. They include parks, street trees, yard trees, landscaped boulevards, gardens, river and stream corridors, greenways, wetlands, nature preserves, shelter belts of trees, and working trees at former industrial sites. Urban forests, through planned connections of green spaces, form the green infrastructure on which small and large communities depend. Urban forests help to filter air and water, control storm water, conserve energy, provide wildlife habitat, shade and natural beauty. By reducing noise and providing places to recreate, urban forests strengthen social cohesion, spur community revitalization, and add economic value to our communities.

More than one-half of Kentuckians live in or near and urban setting. The population living in our towns and cities continues to grow, which makes urban forests in our Commonwealth more important than ever. Our urban forestry management decisions should encompass environmental, economic, social, and human health benefits. A comprehensive urban forestry program should include citizen input and support, a commitment from city officials and managers, and a properly trained work force.

Economic benefits of urban forests include:

• Trees help attract tourists and businesses by creating an inviting place to stay.
• Trees help retain shoppers longer in retail areas.
• Trees increase the property value of homes, businesses and industrial properties.
• Trees help increase occupancy rates in apartment complexes.
• Trees reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and air-condition buildings.
• Trees shade roadways, which reduces infrastructure costs for road maintenance.

Environmental benefits of urban forests include:

• Trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen.
• Trees decrease the "heat island" effect by creating shade and lowering air temperature.
• Trees reduce erosion and stormwater runoff, and act as a natural filter to prevent pollutants from washing into waterways.
• Trees improve drinking water.
• Trees provide food and habitat for wildlife.

Social benefits of urban forests include:

• Trees add character and pride to communities.
• Trees create feelings of relaxation and well-being.
• Trees promote a sense of community ownership.
• Trees increase social interactions and encourage activities that head to happier, healthier lives.
• Trees provide privacy, absorbing noise and screening harsh scenery.
• Trees help slow traffic, promote pedestrian traffic, and keep streets safe.
• Trees help reduce violence and crime in residential areas

Human health benefits of urban forests include:

• Trees in our communities help reduce obesity and other health problems.
• Trees outside hospital windows allow for faster healing times in hospital patients.
• Trees contribute to greater job satisfaction and productivity.
• Trees allow for better focus in students.
• Trees help reduce health care costs by filter pollutants, decreasing cases of asthma and heart attacks.
• Trees in communities help reduce stress and anxiety.

Technical Assistance

The Kentucky Division of Forestry provides urban forestry technical assistance to municipalities, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and private landowners. The focus of the urban forestry program is to help communities develop long-term, self-sustaining urban forestry programs. The division also assists with tree board formation and support, the development of tree ordinances, Arbor Day planning and Tree City USA technical support and application assistance. Through these efforts, the program creates healthier, more livable environments in our cities and towns across Kentucky.

For more information about what your community can do to develop or improve its urban forestry program, contact Bridget Abernathy, urban forestry partnership coordinator.

Tree Line Newsletter

The division has a Tree Line list serv that sends a quarterly newsletter as well as emails with current events, occasional grant opportunities and timely information news of interest to urban forest enthusiasts.  To sign up for the list serv, please send an email to Bridget Abernathy.

Additional Urban Forestry links

American Forests

International Society of Arboriculture

Kentucky Arborists' Association

Arbor Day Foundation

Plant Hardiness Zones at

Society of Municipal Arborists

TLC for Trees

Tree Link

Urban Forestry South

A Guide To Assessing Urban Forests