Case Study: Community Forest Management and Technology

June 8, 2020 | written by Elizabeth Schulte

 

The city of Las Vegas, NM is embracing community forest management and technology to address needs such as increasing planting, growing and sustaining canopy, and inadequate funding for maintenance and qualified tree care personnel. The City is leveraging assistance from the State of New Mexico and USDA Forest Service and communicating the needs of its urban forest with TreePlotter™ INVENTORY software. They are driving home these issues with data collection on mobile devices and instant visualization of the urban forest composition with prebuilt charts and graphs. With convenient web-based access and a map-based platform, TreePlotter INVENTORY has proven to be an invaluable outreach and education tool to communicate urban forest needs. With data collected faster over larger areas, the City and local university then collaborated to develop an urban forest management plan.

Community Forest Management Challenges

 

Trees are often not a high priority for local governments with limited budgets and competing priorities. Allocating funds for tree care, maintenance, and replacement can be a struggle. Inadequate management and awareness are very hard to overcome and ultimately decrease the potential benefits from the urban forest canopy.

Communities around the state are experiencing an enormous loss of older trees. Climate change is compounding and making urban conditions difficult to establish trees. The trees in Las Vegas are declining faster than they are being replaced, making the gap too big to expect the rapid establishment of mature trees in the near future.

How Technology Has Helped

 

The liability of the hazardous trees in Las Vegas, NM should be hard for the city leadership to ignore. They have been presented with multiple years of data showing an accelerating decline in trees in public places. They are using TreePlotter INVENTORY software to create reports and maps showing the condition of public trees to the city council. The City used volunteer field inventory days to involve the public and engage community members in tree care and why understanding this resource is important. Once people go through this type of exercise, they look at trees, tree care, and tree benefits differently, in particular the desert southwest where shade is at a premium. Las Vegas, NM has leveraged TreePlotter as a great outreach tool.

Three older adults are discussing community forest management, while standing in front of a tree with a sign on it.

Our team interviewed Shannon Atencio to learn more about the New Mexico Urban Forestry department and work.

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