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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