Tree Pittsburgh’s mis­sion is to pro­tect and restore the City’s tree pop­u­la­tion through com­mu­ni­ty tree plant­i­ng and care, edu­ca­tion and advo­ca­cy.

Advo­ca­cy plays an impor­tant role in ensur­ing that poli­cies and plans that guide the City (and sur­round­ing bor­oughs, town­ships, and munic­i­pal­i­ties) pro­tect our frag­ile urban for­est.

Our goal is to help res­i­dents become informed and inspired to speak out for trees. We have devel­oped a white paper to help you start a con­ver­sa­tion with your neigh­bors, co-work­ers, and elect­ed offi­cials about the ben­e­fits of pro­tect­ing our tree canopy.

Pittsburgh’s urban forest—its green hill­sides, ver­dant parks and shad­ed streets—is a valu­able munic­i­pal resource, mak­ing our City a more desir­able place to live, work, and play while improv­ing the envi­ron­ment. More­over, our hill­sides have become a new sym­bol for Pitts­burgh, pro­vid­ing an unparalleled—and often sur­pris­ing­ly green—urban expe­ri­ence for res­i­dents and vis­i­tors alike.

There is a grow­ing body of research that demon­strates just how essen­tial trees are to our qual­i­ty of life-cool­ing our city dur­ing the hot sum­mer months, help­ing to reduce water and air pol­lu­tion, and bring­ing a sense of calm to our bustling urban life.

With prop­er main­te­nance, our urban for­est is an asset that gains val­ue as it matures. Accord­ing to the US For­est Ser­vice, as trees grow larg­er their abil­i­ty to pro­vide envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices and ben­e­fits increas­es dra­mat­i­cal­ly. David Nowak, of the USDA For­est Ser­vice, demon­strates in his research that, “a big tree does 60 to 70 times the pol­lu­tion removal of a small tree.”

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Pitts­burgh, along with many oth­er cities in our coun­try, has expe­ri­enced a sub­stan­tial decline in its urban for­est due to a vari­ety of caus­es includ­ing con­struc­tion, pol­lu­tion, dis­ease and neglect. Great strides have been made over the last sev­er­al years to plant and care for pub­licly-owned trees and to cre­ate a greater aware­ness among Pitts­burghers about the ben­e­fits that trees pro­vide. Over 1,200 local vol­un­teers have grad­u­at­ed from the Tree Pitts­burgh Tree Ten­der pro­gram, and more than 20,000 new trees have been plant­ed along streets, in parks, and along water­way trails by the Tree­Vi­tal­ize Pitts­burgh part­ner­ship, both demon­strat­ing the renewed enthu­si­asm for our urban for­est.

Our efforts to under­stand the state of our street tree pop­u­la­tion and to cre­ate a com­pre­hen­sive strat­e­gy to improve its size and con­di­tion led us to take the steps to deep­en our under­stand­ing of our urban for­est resource as a whole and to cre­ate goals and strate­gies to effi­cient­ly pro­tect, man­age, and grow the for­est across all City neigh­bor­hoods. To that end, the City’s very first Urban For­est Mas­ter Plan (UFMP) was com­plet­ed in June 2012, a 20-year plan to grow and pro­tect Pittsburgh’s tree canopy—both on pri­vate on pub­lic land.

There are a series of rec­om­men­da­tions in the Urban For­est Mas­ter Plan that are the sole­ly the City’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to imple­ment, and it is impor­tant to note that both the City Forester, Lisa Ceoffe, and Andrew Dash from City Plan­ning par­tic­i­pat­ed in its cre­ation as well as mul­ti­ple oth­er part­ners and stake-hold­ers. Fur­ther, the UFMP is ref­er­enced in the Coun­cil-adopt­ed, OPENSPACEPGH plan.

In the short-term, there are a series of “low-hang­ing fruit” rec­om­men­da­tions that can make an imme­di­ate and pos­i­tive impact.

  1. Respond to pest and dis­ease out­breaks and threats to the urban for­est
  2. Ful­ly staff the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works Forestry Divi­sion, pri­or­i­tiz­ing inspec­tors and admin­is­tra­tive sup­port staff
  3. Pro­mote the enforce­ment of tree ordi­nances and zon­ing code through City Plan­ning and ensure that City-owned prop­er­ties are up to code
  4. Pri­or­i­tize and take seri­ous­ly the results of the oper­a­tions review that is cur­rent­ly under­way for the Forestry Division–a project of the Pitts­burgh Shade Tree Com­mis­sion.

Respond to Pest and Disease Outbreaks and Threats to the Urban Forest

Accord­ing to the 2011 Urban Tree Canopy Analy­sis con­duct­ed by Tree Pitts­burgh as part of the City’s Urban For­est Mas­ter Plan, the City stands to lose a major­i­ty of its trees if pest and dis­ease threats go unchecked.

Pest Susceptibility (2011)

  • Asian Long­horned Bee­tle 1,780,000 Trees (67%)
  • Emer­ald Ash Bor­er 230,000 Trees (9%)
  • Dutch Elm Dis­ease 220,000 Trees (8%)
  • Gyp­sy Moth 175,000 Trees (7%)

The City’s urban for­est is already feel­ing the effects of Emer­ald Ash Bor­er and Oak Wilt–with entire blocks of Ash trees being removed and acres of land clear-cut in the parks due to Oak Wilt.

A work­ing group made up of local non-prof­its, the City Forester, and PA Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Nat­ur­al Resources has formed and is col­lab­o­rat­ing to address present and loom­ing pest and dis­ease threats; how­ev­er, the City must ded­i­cate more per­son­nel time and resources to keep ahead of threats. The UFMP makes a series of rec­om­men­da­tions around the issue, and the work­ing group is avail­able to pro­vide a brief­ing to the admin­is­tra­tion and rec­om­mend a course of action.

Fully Staff the Department of Public Works Forestry Division, Prioritizing Inspectors and Administrative Support Staff

Action Unit­ed recent­ly host­ed a ral­ly in Garfield over crum­bling side­walk infra­struc­ture and haz­ardous street trees. The ral­ly demon­strates the public’s dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the City’s main­te­nance of its infra­struc­ture and the pace and effi­cien­cy of its pub­lic response sys­tem. At one point, the City Forestry Divi­sion had over 30 employ­ees, and now it is down to a crew of 12–with two inspec­tors and no admin­is­tra­tive sup­port staff. To main­tain a high-qual­i­ty of pub­lic respon­sive­ness and oper­a­tional effi­cien­cies, it is nec­es­sary to build capac­i­ty in the Divi­sion.

Promote the Enforcement of Tree Ordinances and Zoning Code in City Planning

Time and again we see new devel­op­ment in the City where tree code is not followed–beautiful mature trees are cut down and new trees are plant­ed improp­er­ly or left out alto­geth­er, an oppor­tu­ni­ty to pre­serve and expand the City’s tree canopy is missed and in some cas­es, funds are wast­ed due to poor­ly exe­cut­ed plant­i­ng projects. These mis­takes cost the City in the long run to main­tain poor qual­i­ty trees and the missed ben­e­fits that they could have pro­vid­ed.

Prioritize and Take Seriously the Results of the Operations Review that is Currently Underway for the Forestry Division—A Project of the Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission

The Pitts­burgh Shade Tree Com­mis­sion recent­ly approved a con­tract with Dav­ey Resource Group to con­duct an oper­a­tions review of the Forestry Divi­sion as well as a plan to improve and max­i­mize per­for­mance. Once com­plete, the Direc­tor of Pub­lic Works should con­sid­er the report’s rec­om­men­da­tions seri­ous­ly and make appro­pri­ate changes.

Tree Pittsburgh—A Valuable Partner

Tree Pitts­burgh, for­mer­ly Friends of the Pitts­burgh Urban For­est, was orga­nized in 2006 by mem­bers of the Pitts­burgh Shade Tree Com­mis­sion to car­ry out fund-rais­ing, edu­ca­tion, and stew­ard­ship activ­i­ties aimed at restor­ing and pro­tect­ing Pittsburgh’s urban for­est. The organization’s vision is to be a leader in cre­at­ing a healthy and robust urban for­est by engag­ing cit­i­zens to main­tain, plant, and pro­tect trees. Tree Pitts­burgh opened its office doors in June 2007 and has quick­ly earned the atten­tion and respect of com­mu­ni­ty res­i­dents and key stake­hold­ers. Orga­ni­za­tion­al accom­plish­ments include:
  • Rais­ing funds and man­ag­ing con­tracts for the pro­fes­sion­al prun­ing of over 1,000 street and park trees (ongo­ing), facil­i­tat­ing the plant­i­ng of 20,000 street, park, and river­front trees.
  • Devel­op­ing and launch­ing the Tree Ten­der pro­gram aimed at fos­ter­ing advo­cates and stew­ards for trees just over 1,200 Tree Ten­ders grad­u­at­ed to date.
  • Coor­di­nat­ing near­ly 3,700 vol­un­teers since 2009 to mulch and weed over 10,000 street trees, prune 3,149 street trees–totaling over 9,200 hours.
  • Lead­ing mul­ti­ple demon­stra­tion plant­i­ng efforts across the City includ­ing: the streetscape at the August Wil­son African Amer­i­can Cul­tur­al Cen­ter, park­ing lot retro­fits in East Lib­er­ty, and boule­vard green­ing in East Lib­er­ty.
  • Coor­di­nat­ing hill­side and green­way restora­tion projects along the Three Rivers Her­itage Trail with Friends of the River­front and Tree­Vi­tal­ize Pitts­burgh.
  • Pro­vid­ing an annu­al “green” job expe­ri­ence for high school and col­lege stu­dents.
  • Estab­lish­ing a com­mu­ni­ty tree nurs­ery with a cur­rent stock of more than 8,000 seedlings.
  • Lead­ing Pittsburgh’s very first Urban For­est Mas­ter Plan­ning process to cre­ate a 20-year roadmap for grow­ing and main­tain­ing the City’s tree canopy–including a com­pre­hen­sive state of the urban for­est analy­sis. Tree Pitts­burgh is grow­ing to include a larg­er staff with a more sophis­ti­cat­ed infra­struc­ture so that we can con­tin­ue both to aid the City Forestry Divi­sion in the pro­fes­sion­al main­te­nance of city trees as well as to expand pro­gram­ming that gets to the heart of its mission–volunteer tree main­te­nance, plant­i­ng, and pub­lic edu­ca­tion. In an era of increas­ing envi­ron­men­tal aware­ness and respon­si­bil­i­ty, we are ready now, more than ever, to take steps to deep­en our under­stand­ing of our urban for­est resource as a whole and to cre­ate goals and strate­gies to effi­cient­ly pro­tect, man­age, and grow the for­est across all City neigh­bor­hoods.

Appendix A

A.) Urban For­est Mas­ter Plan rec­om­men­da­tions
B.) “Garfield Res­i­dents Call on City to Main­tain Over­grown Trees, Fix Bro­ken Side­walks” WESA radio. August 26, 2013.
Fol­low­ing are a List of Rec­om­men­da­tion Pulled Direct­ly from the Urban For­est Mas­ter Plan, Inter­a­gency Coop­er­a­tion and Part­ner­ships

We observe a dis­con­nect, inter­nal­ly between City agen­cies and exter­nal­ly with part­ners that hin­ders effi­cien­cy and capac­i­ty and often results in missed oppor­tu­ni­ties.

  1. Con­vene a sum­mit of all agen­cies with a major impact on our urban for­est to for­mal­ize com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods, iden­ti­fy coop­er­a­tive projects, and seek syn­er­gy.
  2. For­mal­ly describe urban for­est man­age­ment respon­si­bil­i­ties across all agen­cies and part­ners. With a clear divi­sion of labor and artic­u­lat­ed respon­si­bil­i­ties, work­flow will more smooth and effi­cient.
  3. As long as urban forestry respon­si­bil­i­ty and fund­ing are divid­ed among var­i­ous agen­cies, the City should ensure the means to increase inter­de­part­men­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion and coop­er­a­tion for plans and projects that may affect the urban for­est.
  4. Iden­ti­fy coop­er­a­tive projects that con­nect pri­vate landown­ers to the City’s urban for­est goals.
  5. Per­form a com­pre­hen­sive oper­a­tional review of the City’s Forestry Divi­sion.
Equi­table Urban For­est Ben­e­fits

It is no secret that some Pitts­burgh neigh­bor­hoods have more trees than oth­ers, nor is it a sur­prise that wealth­i­er neigh­bor­hoods have more trees, in bet­ter con­di­tion, than eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­tressed neigh­bor­hoods. While the fact remains that all City neigh­bor­hoods have their share of forestry needs, the Urban For­est Mas­ter Plan address­es tree canopy dis­tri­b­u­tion issues with a series of rec­om­men­da­tions, and the City has a clear role to play in ensur­ing that all Pitts­burgh res­i­dents ben­e­fit equal­ly from the urban for­est.

  1. Give pri­or­i­ty for urban forestry and out­reach activ­i­ties to dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties that are cur­rent­ly gain­ing the least ben­e­fit from the urban for­est.
  2. Pri­or­i­tize neigh­bor­hoods for future tree plant­i­ng and pro­tec­tion efforts to increase defi­cient tree canopy fig­ures and allow for more equi­table canopy cov­er across the City.
  3. Respond to res­i­dent requests for trees rather than prop­er­ty own­er requests.
  4. In neigh­bor­hoods with long-term vacant prop­er­ties, respond to adja­cent res­i­dents’ requests to plant trees in front of the vacant prop­er­ties.
  5. Do not allow absen­tee land­lords to veto tree plant­i­ng on adja­cent pub­lic prop­er­ty.
Urban Tree Canopy Cov­er Goals

Accord­ing to the 2012 State of the Urban For­est Report, the City’s tree canopy cov­er is at 42%. While this num­ber seems robust, most of the tree canopy is locat­ed in parks, hill­sides, and vacant prop­er­ties. These trees pro­vide sub­stan­tial ben­e­fits to City res­i­dents, but they do not pro­vide the same ben­e­fit as trees plant­ed with­in com­mu­ni­ties. Neigh­bor­hood trees pro­vide shade to homes and busi­ness­es, cap­ture stormwa­ter before it hits imper­vi­ous sur­faces, and bring beau­ty and a sense of place to com­mu­ni­ties. We must bal­ance the pro­tec­tion and restora­tion of our nat­ur­al areas with the proac­tive plant­i­ng and care of neigh­bor­hood trees.

  1. Uti­lize the UTC analy­sis in con­junc­tion with the i‑Tree analy­ses to increase aware­ness about the rela­tion­ship between trees and envi­ron­men­tal qual­i­ty and to engage stake­hold­ers in tree plant­i­ng.
  2. Set a goal to max­i­mize street tree stock­ing lev­els.
  3. Tar­get parks and oth­er pub­lic land to max­i­mize pos­si­ble canopy cov­er­age.
  4. Adopt per­for­mance-based plant­i­ng strate­gies by select­ing species based on desired ben­e­fit out­comes rather than canopy cov­er alone.
  5. Design a back­yard tree plant­i­ng and tree care toolk­it for pri­vate landown­ers inter­est­ed in plant­i­ng trees to increase ben­e­fits that guide peo­ple to choose species and plant­i­ng loca­tions that max­i­mize ben­e­fits.
  6. Share estab­lished tree canopy goals and share the UTC analy­sis with stake­hold­ers con­cerned with the urban for­est.
  7. Bud­get ade­quate­ly to main­tain trees after plant­i­ng.
  8. Gen­er­ate pos­i­tive canopy impacts on small-scale devel­op­ment and rede­vel­op­ment projects by incor­po­rat­ing canopy goals into munic­i­pal land­scape require­ments for streetscapes, park­ing lots, and oth­er sites.
Match Fund­ing to Desired Lev­el of Ser­vice for Urban Forestry Man­age­ment
  1. Reassess the City’s urban forestry pro­gram bud­get in terms of achiev­ing street tree and UTC plant­i­ng goals, the rec­om­mend­ed sev­en-year pre­ven­tive main­te­nance cycle, and the young tree main­te­nance pro­grams.
  2. Sus­tain estab­lished part­ner­ships and cre­ate new part­ner­ships as a means to lever­age resources need­ed to accom­plish urban forestry goals.
  3. Increase penal­ties for devel­op­ers and builders who dam­age trees and ensure enforce­ment.
Devel­op a Proac­tive Man­age­ment Regime for Pub­lic Trees
  1. Reg­u­lar­ly mon­i­tor pub­lic trees for main­te­nance needs, risks, and pests.
  2. Devel­op a pro­to­col that pro­vides for reg­u­lar updat­ing of the pub­lic tree inven­to­ry.
  3. Imple­ment a cycli­cal main­te­nance sched­ule of all street trees that pro­vides for a sev­en-year cycle of inspec­tion.
  4. Ensure that cycli­cal main­te­nance includes prun­ing of medi­um-sized and large trees to reduce risk and extend the pro­duc­tive life.
  5. Ensure that cycli­cal prun­ing also includes care for new­ly plant­ed and young trees in their for­ma­tive years.
  6. Com­mu­ni­cate and engage with the com­mu­ni­ty regard­ing the urban for­est plan.
  7. Ensure the Tree Ten­der pro­gram con­tin­ues so that the City can nar­row its focus on mature tree care
Devel­op a Proac­tive Risk Man­age­ment Pro­gram for Pub­lic Trees
  1. Facil­i­tate a sys­tem­at­ic tree main­te­nance pro­gram for pub­lic trees.
  2. Main­tain an updat­ed tree inven­to­ry with risk rat­ing data that uti­lize the tree risk assess­ment stan­dards in ANSI A300 (Part 9) and the Best Man­age­ment Prac­tices pub­lished by the ISA that address both tree inven­to­ries and tree risk assess­ment. [63, 64, 65]
  3. Cre­ate a pri­or­i­ti­za­tion scheme in the pub­lic tree inven­to­ry that rates trees based on risk lev­els.
  4. Use qual­i­fied indi­vid­u­als such as ISA Cer­ti­fied Arborists to mon­i­tor pub­lic infra­struc­ture improve­ments for poten­tial increase in tree risk and to iden­ti­fy poten­tial­ly high-risk trees as part of reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled inven­to­ry updates.
  5. Per­form re-inspec­tions after storms that include heavy winds or snow that may increase branch load­ing.
  6. Prompt­ly remove and prune trees iden­ti­fied with severe and high risk.
  7. Inte­grate a side­walk repair pro­gram with prop­er arbori­cul­tur­al prac­tices and a per­mit sys­tem that tracks pro­posed work near pub­lic trees.
  8. Main­tain ade­quate fund­ing lev­els for risk man­age­ment using in-house fund­ing or part­ner­ships with non­prof­its or obtain new fund­ing stream.
Mon­i­tor the Urban For­est for Exot­ic and Inva­sive Pests and Dis­eases
  1. Iden­ti­fy the high­est lev­el, exot­ic pest threats and devel­op strate­gies for mon­i­tor­ing, con­trol, removals, and replant­i­ng. Strate­gies should include infor­ma­tion about uti­liza­tion of lim­it­ed resources and meth­ods to secure fund­ing to pre­vent or deal with exist­ing pest issues.
  2. Uti­lize exist­ing street tree inven­to­ry data to mon­i­tor pub­lic street trees for high-pri­or­i­ty, exot­ic pest threat zones.
  3. Edu­cate city staff, stake­hold­ers, and the gen­er­al pub­lic about exot­ic pest threats and pro­vide infor­ma­tion about iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and treat­ment options.
  4. Cre­ate cit­i­zen watch pro­grams to assist with ear­ly detec­tion of exot­ic pests. Dove­tail these pro­grams with addi­tion­al edu­ca­tion about urban forestry issues.
Ensure Tree Ben­e­fits for Future Gen­er­a­tions Through a Sus­tain­able Plant­i­ng Pro­gram
  1. Enforce city codes that require tree plant­i­ng to be a part of devel­op­ment projects.
  2. Estab­lish street tree stock­ing goals for each neigh­bor­hood and for the entire City.
  3. Tar­get nat­ur­al areas and forest­ed hill­sides for restora­tion plant­i­ng projects.
  4. Ensure there is sus­tain­able fund­ing for nec­es­sary lev­els of tree main­te­nance to grow new­ly plant­ed trees into safe and healthy, mature trees.
  5. Track all new tree plant­i­ngs in an accu­rate and reli­able inven­to­ry sys­tem to facil­i­tate the use of tree data for research pur­pos­es, project costs, main­te­nance needs, and to eval­u­ate progress towards diver­si­ty objec­tives.
Pro­tect Trees and Pre­serve Their Role in Defin­ing the City’s Char­ac­ter
  1. Update and enforce ordi­nances that pro­tect exist­ing tree resources both on pub­lic and pri­vate lands.
  2. Devel­op a set of arbori­cul­tur­al stan­dards for all work that occurs near pub­lic trees. The stan­dards should apply to per­mit­ted work by pri­vate con­trac­tors and munic­i­pal crews who per­form any type of work that may impact trees.
  3. Devel­op ordi­nance pro­tec­tion for the City’s forest­ed hill­sides.
  4. Cre­ate clear author­i­ty with an inter­a­gency and inter­de­part­men­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion process for inspec­tion, mon­i­tor­ing, and enforce­ment of pro­tec­tion of pub­lic trees dur­ing infra­struc­ture improve­ments by pub­lic agen­cies, or per­mit­ted work on pub­lic rights-of-way near pub­lic trees.
  5. Cre­ate a ded­i­cat­ed account for funds from reme­di­a­tion and fines that is strict­ly for fund­ing oth­er tree-relat­ed projects.
  6. Incor­po­rate tree pro­tec­tion best man­age­ment prac­tices and exam­ples of poor prac­tices in a pub­lic out­reach cam­paign.
  7. Cre­ate a pri­vate prop­er­ty tree pro­tec­tion ordi­nance.
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