Urban Forestry Program Evaluation Report

Fairfax, Virginia, USA

The residents of the City of Fairfax (“the City”, “Fairfax”) care about the place where they live, work, and recreate. Among the many things that make the City special is its physical environment—the urban forest—consisting of tree-lined streets, abundant parks, natural areas, trees in parking lots and framing buildings, flowering trees in spring, fall color, trees with swings in backyards, and trees edging streams and ponds cooling the waters for aquatic life. One of the most important responsibilities is to protect these resources and ensure that Fairfax will always be a beautiful and livable city, long into the future.

The City of Fairfax has a vibrant urban forest that continues to be created, modified, and removed primarily by people, and sustaining it will require ongoing human intervention. The goal of this intervention is a sustainable urban forest— an urban forest that optimizes the benefits of trees while meeting established safety and economic goals. Achieving this requires robust management, diverse funding, adequate staffing, effective policies, and maintenance actions consistent with best practices.

The urban forest offers many benefits, some of which are directly identifiable and quantifiable, and others that are experienced. Recently, urban forests are recognized as key elements to climate change mitigation by helping cities adapt to higher temperatures and other impacts of a changing climate. A 2016 study of the City’s urban forest found that this living infrastructure shades nearly 38 percent of the community and provides economic, environmental, and aesthetic benefits— $7.3 million in air quality improvements, carbon sequestration, and carbon storage services alone. A 2015 study determined the ecosystem services and benefits of the 5,332 public street trees at the time totaled nearly $516,600 annually. Most notably, the street tree population prevents over 6.4 million gallons of stormwater runoff annually by intercepting rainfall. The function and structure of the street tree population results in a replacement value of over $11.2 million as of 2015. The City’s legacy of trees continues to grow and caring for this asset is an important part of maintaining a sustainable, and vibrant city. 

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