The urban forest in Colorado Springs is a valuable asset that provides residents and visitors with many ecological, environmental, and community benefits. This Urban Forest Management Plan reviewed a variety of sources— the City’s existing policies and plans, interviews with City staff, national and regional urban forest benchmarks, several sample inventories, the 2019 tree canopy assessment, and a community survey— which were ultimately incorporated into the U.S. Forest Service Urban Forest Sustainability and Management Audit. The results were then used to create four unique scenarios representing different levels of City Forestry funding. Within each scenario, a set of Goals, Objectives, Targets, and Actions were designed to help strategically direct City resources towards the mission of growing a better Colorado Springs urban forest for all, under any future budgeting scenario.
Planning For The Urban Forest
The objective of creating an urban forest management plan is to evaluate the City’s existing urban forest resource in terms of physical strucure and program management (“what do we have?”), identify goals and objectives as to what the City would like its urban forest to look like (“what do we want?”), determine actions and targets to get the City to that point (“how do we get what we want?”), and to continually reevaluate progress along the way (“how are we doing?”).
Colorado Springs’ urban forest is living infrastructure that was, with a few exceptions, planted as the City developed and expanded and has continued to increase over time. Currently, urban forest canopy shades over 17 percent of the community and includes an estimated public tree population of ~270,000 trees. This means approximately 38,600 trees per year should have maintenance performed on them, yet in recent years, Forestry staff have been able to maintain less than 1,700 trees per year with current staffing and another 2,000 with contracted services. Additional staffing is critical in order to increase the care provided to the growing urban forest. Compared to industry recommendations, City Forestry is understaffed by 16 employees and under-budgeted by $21.64 per tree.