Vibrant Cities & Urban Forests: A National Call to Action

In April 2011, the U.S. Forest Service and non-profit New York Restoration Project (NYRP) convened the Vibrant Cities and Urban Forests: A National Call to Action task force outside of Washington, DC. The three-day workshop addressed the future of our nation’s urban forests and ecosystems; incorporating the health, environmental, social and economic benefits they bring to sustainable and vibrant cities. The VCUF task force set out to craft a vision, set of goals and recommendations that will advance urban forestry and natural resources stewardship into the next decade and beyond.

The 25 individuals who comprise the task force include the nation’s most visionary and respected municipal and state officials, national and local non-profit leaders, researchers, urban planners, and foundation and industry representatives. The members of the task force were selected from a pool of more than 150 nominations.

In preparation for the workshop, task force members participated in weekly webinars that addressed the history of the U.S. Forest Service’s support of urban and community forestry programs and best practices in urban forests and ecosystems as well as engaged in a discussion of their aspirations and goals for the future of our cities.

Over the course of the April workshop, the task force members began developing a comprehensive set of recommendations that span across seven broad themes:

1. Equity

2. Knowledge and research for decision-making and evaluation

3. Collaborative and integrated planning at a metropolitan regional scale

4. Engagement, education and awareness to action

5. Building capacity

6. Realignment of resources

7. Standard and best practices

These recommendations – to be refined and finalized over the next several months – promote environmental justice, support urban ecosystems research, encourage cross- agency and organization collaboration in green infrastructure planning, and suggest ways to grow a sustainable green jobs workforce, establish consistent funding resources and educate citizens and youth to encourage stewardship and environmental action. The task force will furthermore use current urban forests and ecosystems best practice models to frame a set of Vibrant Cities & Urban Forests standards that will work towards the realization of all of the recommendations.