Planning for Urban Trees

Planners are exactly the type of allies urban forests need. They think in terms of decades, frequently stay in their positions for long periods of time, and are motivated by health and environmental values. ReLeaf recognizes that nonprofits have time and money constraints, yet also believes local advocacy and working relationships with decision-makers like planners, landscape architects, public works and elected officials are critical for our collective success. Here you’ll find a collection of resources to help you collaborate with your local planners and advocate for trees together. Learn about planner perspectives and priorities with the articles, websites, videos and more listed below.

Planning Overview

An Urban Forest Advocate’s Guide to Planning

We compiled a toolkit of information and resources to introduce the world of planning and provide tips for engagement.

Survey Results

We surveyed city and county planners, urban design professionals, consultants, and urban forest nonprofits about their perspectives and experiences in regards to planning for trees. See the results here:

Key Planning Issues

Urban Heat Island Effect

Urban areas experience warmer temperatures due to increased infrastructure, people and waste heat, and decreased shade and evaporation. Some urban areas can be up to 22°F warmer at night than their rural neighbors. It’s these record-high nighttime lows that are most dangerous to human health.

Complete Streets

Complete streets integrate people and place in the planning, and maintenance of transportation networks to ensure streets are safe for people of all ages and abilities and support local land uses, economies, cultures, and natural environments

Stormwater Management

Urbanization has fundamentally changed how water moves through the environment. Impervious surfaces like streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and structures prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground.

General Plans

Every city and county must adopt “a comprehensive, long-term general plan” that guides land use planning decisions. Recent legislation has mandated that planners take into consideration climate change and environmental justice.

Human Health

Planners strive to create a built environment that supports health and healthy habits. Trees contribute to air and water quality as well as increased activity.

Other Areas of Interest

Planners address a varieties of issues with an array of perspectives across the world. Here are a few more resources related to planning for trees:


Listen to these podcasts to dive deep into the issues:

  • How to Make a City. Check out the “How Landscape Design Makes a City” and “How to Plan a City” episodes.
  • Placemakers: By Slate, different stories related to Urban Planning
  • Strong Towns. This group has three series of podcasts, discussing all different aspects of cities and planning
  • Talking Headways: Highlight different urban planning projects, largely transportation-related, but also relating to community, health, housing and more.
  • Shout Engine: One episode features a conversation with walkability expert Jeff Speck
  • People Behind the Plans: interviews from the American Planning Association