Simply put, urban and community forestry impacts just as many New Jerseyans as rural forestry does. As rural forestry gives us all clean drinking water, wild hiking opportunities and abundant and diverse wildlife, urban and community forests give us:
- Urban and suburban parks
- Street trees
- Greenways, usually along river and canal systems
- Landscaped boulevards
- Public gardens and arboretums
Thus, it should surprise no one that most people in New Jersey learn about the benefits of trees (and forests) by first looking at their neighborhoods, not rural forests. In our own neighborhoods and parks, those benefits may seem a little easier to visualize and understand:
Urban and community foresters understand these special forests as what they are, either remnants of earlier forests, planted landscapes, or opportunities for improvement. However in all cases, foresters view these special forests as:
- Important ecosystems that provide essential services
- Ecosystems that have many of the same problems that rural forests do, such as insects, diseases, and other forest pests
- Ecosystems that have additional stresses above and beyond rural forests, including urban soil conditions, hazard assessments, extreme temperature and air quality conditions, and the potential for improper pruning or disturbance of roots
In New Jersey, our municipal shade tree commissions are enhanced and protected by the NJ Shade Tree and Community Forestry Assistance Act of 1996. This Act protects shade tree commissioners from personal liability so long as the municipality is following a DEP-approved Community Forestry Management Plan. These important volunteers – following the advice of a qualified forester – are the front lines in the effort to keep New Jersey’s most densely populated areas clean, green, and safe.
NJ Division SAF supports its members who are urban and community foresters by conducting training sessions, providing policy support, and by promoting the development of student foresters. On a national level, SAF is partnering with the California Urban Forests Council to expand their state certification program to a nationwide Certified Urban and Community Forester credential.