Our mission is to build technology that improves information sharing, communicates the value of the urban forest, and engages communities in creating greener, more livable urban environments.
The Urban Forest Map is a collaboration of government, nonprofits, businesses and you to map every tree in San Francisco. Along the way we'll calculate the environmental benefits the trees are providing -- how many gallons of stormwater they are helping to filter, how many pounds of air pollutants they are capturing, how many kilowatt-hours of energy they are conserving, and how many tons of carbon dioxide they are removing from the atmosphere. The information we gather will help urban foresters and city planners to better manage trees in specific areas, track and combat tree pests and diseases, and plan future tree plantings. Climatologists can use it to better understand the effects of urban forests on climates, and students and citizen scientists can use it to learn about the role trees play in the urban ecosystem.
The roots of this project (if you'll pardon the pun) lie in the events of a sunny Los Angeles day five years ago. Our story begins with Amber planting a street tree for the LA nonprofit tree advocacy group Tree People and realizing that there was no easy way to record that information, share it with the community, monitor the tree's health, celebrate the experience. So she began to dream about ways to use technology to engage the community in urban forestry, while helping to lighten the management burden of the government and nonprofit entities responsible for caring for trees. From this, the vision of a web-based, open-source collaborative project grew.
The first stage in realizing this vision was the development of a prototype with funding from Autodesk and the great support of San Francisco's Department of Public Works and Friends of the Urban Forest. The prototype enabled the team to win a grant from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) funded by Proposition 84, which was aimed at protecting natural resources. Friends of the Urban Forest continued as the sponsors of the project and the Department of Public Works continued to offer their dedicated support.
Amber and Kelaine have both worked in urban forestry for years -- Amber from the community organization, nonprofit side and Kelaine on the government, research side. But both of us saw the same difficulties in cities across the country (and we're sure other countries have them too):
- Problems keeping up with tree inventories (tree people like to plant trees not enter data)
- Problems with technology (like proprietary software products with bad support or expensive software packages)
- Problems with lack of technology (we've seen cities where they keep tree records on index cards in drawers or in three-ring binders)
- Difficulties coordinating among different government entities (in San Francisco there are more than a dozen local, state, and federal agencies with jursidiction over trees)
- Neglect of the importance and value of trees on private property (for logistical and cost reasons these are rarely, if ever, counted in an inventory).
And yet, knowledge of the urban forest -- where the trees are, what species are represented, how old and healthy they are, the distribution of trees geographically -- has great value for planners, city foresters, ecologists, landscape architects, tree advocacy groups, and residents, too.
Our goal with the Urban Forest Map is to provide a one-stop repository for tree data, welcoming information from any agency or group and enabling and celebrating citizen participation. Together we'll work toward building a complete, dynamic picture of the urban forest.
CalFire: The mission of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Urban Forestry Program is to develop a regional and statewide cooperative effort to advance the development of sustainable urban and community forests. The Urban Forestry Program offers grants of over $1 million dollars a year to plant trees and over $2.5 million for related projects in urban communities throughout California. Seven Urban Forestry Field Specialists provide expert support to communities, non-profit groups and other municipal governments to create and maintain sustainable urban forests.
Friends of the Urban Forest: Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) is a non-profit organization committed to the belief that trees are a critical element of a livable urban environment. Since 1981, FUF has offered financial, technical, and practical assistance to individuals and neighborhood groups who want to plant and care for trees.
City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Works: The Department of Public Works enhances the quality of life in San Francisco by providing outstanding public service. We design, build, operate, maintain, green, and improve the city's infrastructure, public rights-of-way, and facilities with skill, pride, and responsiveness, in partnership with the San Francisco community.
Department of the Environment: SF Environment is a collection of visionary environmental professionals who are dedicated to helping all San Francisco residents and businesses take an active role in protecting and enhancing their urban environment. They do so tby developing innovative, practical and wide-ranging environmental programs, fostering ground-breaking legislation, and educating the public by providing comprehensive and easily accessible information on a wide range of sustainable practices. SF Environment makes it easy for everyone in San Francisco to take care of their environment, and ultimately, the planet.
Our database of trees comes from public records and citizen foresters like you. Add a tree today and help us grow!