Urban tree canopy (UTC) in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (CBW) provides numerous environmental, economic, and societal benefits. UTC assessments use remote sensing technology to deliver a comprehensive spatial snapshot of a locality’s existing UTC. Because UTC assessments delineate the extent and location of tree canopy cover in the context of other land covers (including plantable space), they are important for establishing tree canopy goals, creating and implementing strategies to achieve those goals, and monitoring progress. Over the past decade, UTC assessments have been completed for numerous localities in the CBW as a result of the Chesapeake Bay Program identifying UTC as a key strategy for Bay restoration. Our research investigated the prevalence of UTC assessments within the CBW and studied how localities are using them. We conducted two surveys: 1) a pilot survey of Virginia localities that received UTC assessments as part of the Virginia UTC project; and 2) a comprehensive survey of all 101 localities in the CBW with populations over 2,500 for which a UTC assessment existed as of May 2013. Surprisingly, 33% of localities in the CBW reported being unaware that a UTC assessment had been performed for their jurisdiction. In general, counties and cities were more likely to be aware of the assessments than were towns (or their jurisdictional equivalent). Most localities that were aware of their assessment were using it in some manner for urban forest planning and management; however, the most frequent activities were also the most basic uses, including: educating officials or citizens about the importance of tree canopy (57%), providing a baseline for evaluating progress toward UTC goals (49%), creating a locality-wide tree canopy goal (47%), planning and prioritizing tree plantings (45%), and informing larger initiatives (43%). All other uses of the assessments (i.e., specialized uses) were reported by 33% or fewer of the CBW localities. Our findings point to the need for outreach to local governments about UTC assessments and their potential uses, particularly in light of increasing emphasis in the CBW on managing urban forests and optimizing UTC as a Bay restoration strategy.
Kimball, Lele L.; Wiseman, P. Eric; Day, Susan D.; and Munsell, John F.
"Use of Urban Tree Canopy Assessments by Localities in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,"
Cities and the Environment (CATE):
2, Article 9.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cate/vol7/iss2/9