Frequently Asked Questions
Why Should Communities Invest in Urban and Community Forestry?
What Makes a Strong Urban and Community Forestry Program?
What is Tree City USA?
What are the State Laws that Govern Public Trees?
What is a Risk Tree?
Urban Forestry Resources
State Laws that Govern Public Shade Trees
Funding and Sustaining an Urban Forestry Program
Community Tree Boards and Committees
Tree Survey / Inventory Resources
Example Urban Forest Management Plans
Community Tree Ordinances and Bylaws for Massachusetts
Additions to Zoning and Subdivision Regulations
- Why Invest in Urban and Community Forestry? – DCR Fact Sheet
- Twenty-Nine Reasons for Planting Trees
- Benefits of Community Trees: International Society of Arboriculture
- Health Benefits of Natural Landscapes – From the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Northeast Community Tree Guide: Benefits, Costs, and Strategic Planting
- National Tree Benefit Calculator
An excellent urban and community forestry program uses coordinated community resources to efficiently and effectively grow, protect and manage community trees in a way that maximizes the social, economic, and environmental benefits that the urban and community forest provides to all residents.
The Massachusetts DCR Urban and Community Forestry Program and the USDA Forest Service have developed some standards criteria that can help indicate a strong program. In fact, the USDA Forest Service monitors each state's performance based on how many communities are meeting these standards. Massachusetts will receive more federal dollars, as more communities achieve these standards.
National Performance Standards for a Strong Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) Program: A strong program will meet each of the following standards:
- Management Plans: A strong UCF Program will have an urban natural resource management plan that guides the management of one of more urban natural resource at the community or watershed level. The plan must be based on some systematic / professional assessment of the resource(s). Plans that focus on or significantly include the "urban forest" (including street trees, parks and forested lands) will be preferred.
- Professional Staffing: A strong UCF program will rely on the services of an individual(s) who has one or more of the following credentials, and who advise and/or assist in the planting, protection, and maintenance of urban and community trees and forests on an annual basis:
- Degree in a natural resource management field;
- ISA, MCA or other equivalent professional certification; or
- Completed a full course of MTWFA Professional Development Series or equivalent training (for communities under 10,000).
- Ordinances / Policies / Regulations: A strong UCF program follows and enforces a local or statewide ordinances or written policies that focus on planting, protecting, and maintaining urban and community trees and forests. This includes following and enforcing Massachusetts General Law Chapter 87. You can view sample Massachusetts tree ordinances
- Advocacy/Advisory Organizations: A strong UCF program actively works with one or more citizen or non-profit organizations, such as a tree board, tree commission, or non-profit organization that is chartered to advise/advocate for the planting, protection and maintenance of urban and community trees, forests or urban natural resources.
- Inter-Agency Coordination: A strong UCF program regularly coordinates with multiple agencies on issues of planting, protecting and maintaining community trees and forests. Other agencies might include planning boards, highway departments, conservation commissions, utilities, etc.
- Tree City USA: A strong UCF program will have achieved the Tree City USA status.
Massachusetts Community Forestry Capacity Worksheet:
The Massachusetts DCR Urban and Community Forestry Program has also developed a worksheet to assist communities in assessing their capacity for excellent urban and community forestry. This worksheet identifies eight different areas that contribute to an excellent UCF program. These standards for a strong UCF program is obviously slightly different from the ones defined above, however, this tool has proven to be useful for communities in their efforts to assess and strengthen their local UCF programs. The eight standards in this worksheet are:
- Mature Tree Care
- Planting Programs
- Conserving Canopy at the Community Level
- Legal and Policy Tools
- Professional Staff
- Managing through Partnerships
- Education and Awareness Programs
- WHAT IS TREE CITY USA? – DCR Fact Sheet
- The National Arbor Day Foundation Check out the *New online portal for Tree City USA applications and resources page where you can:
-View a recorded webinar
-Start your 2015 re-certification and growth award application (Portal will be open for 2015 applications in fall 2015)
-First time Tree City USA communities can request login information
Tree City USA Application Materials (Downloadable)
- 2015 Tree City USA Application Instructions and Worksheets - Start the 2015 application process by reading this document
- New or Recertification Tree City USA Application
- Growth Award Application
- Sample work plan
- Protecting Our Community Trees : Massachusetts ’ General Laws Governing Public Shade Trees – DCR Fact Sheet
- The text of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 87. Shade Trees
- The text of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40, section 15C. Scenic Roads
- Baystate Roads Fact Sheet on Municipal Liability and Tree Wardens, and the Powers and Qualifications of the Tree Warden, is available here
Here are some valuable resources to help you fund and sustain your urban and community forestry program:
- PA Urban and Community Forestry (Fact Sheet #1): Sustaining and Funding an Urban Forestry Program (1998)
- PA Urban and Community Forestry (Fact Sheet #5): Annual Budgets for Community Tree Programs (1998)
- How to Fund Community Forestry. Tree City USA Bulletin No. 34. Dr. James R. Fazio, Editor.
- Providence Neighborhood Planting Program To learn more about how funding through an endowment in your local community can work.
- Your Urban and Community Forestry programs deserve support. Check out this fundraising tutorial from the Alliance for Community Trees and the Arbor Day Foundation
- Grant listing from the Alliance for Community Trees
- Town / City Tree and Forest Committees : Citizens Working Together for a Healthier Community Forest – DCR Fact Sheet
- Penn State Fact Sheet: Municipal Tree Commissions
- Tree Board University: A free, self-paced training course for those interested in starting or joining a tree board or committee. The course focuses on the human aspects of tree stewardship.
- Tree Inventories and Surveys : The Key to Understanding Your Community’s Urban Forest – DCR Fact Sheet
- i-Tree Streets: Free program for developing an inventory and analyzing street tree data data
- Sample Community Forest Inventories and Assessments
- The Town of Lexington Tree Committee has produced a Tree Management Manual. This manual covers a host of municipal tree management topics.
- The Northeast Center for Urban and Community Forestry has a sample plan and guide to developing management plan.
- City of Lawrence Sample Management Plan – prepared by DCR Urban Forestry Staff.
Townsend Town Forest Management Plans
(If you do not see your community's tree ordinance here, or we have an outdated copy, please send us an updated digital copy to Julie.Coop@state.ma.us
Includes sections on the creation of a tree committee, tree planting guidelines, tree topping and pruning, and a draft street tree list.
Provides protection of trees during construction
Includes procedures for tree protection during large development projects, tree replacement and a tree replacement fund.
Includes duties of the tree warden, creation of a tree committee, establishment of a tree replacement policy, and tree planting requirements for developments.
Includes provisions planting trees in the public way, for replacement trees when non-risk trees are removed, and enforcement and penalties for violation
Establishes and defines the Public Shade Tree Management Advisory Board, duties of the Tree Warden, provisions for maintenance and removal of trees and shrubs, planting permits (including prohibited plants), licensing requirements for work on public shade trees, removal of hazardous trees, prohibited acts and penalties.
Includes duties of the tree warden, creation of a tree committee, protection of private trees during major construction or residential re-development, and establishment of a tree fund.
Includes provisions for replanting or making a cash contribution to town for replacement trees when a non-hazardous tree is removed, subdivision planting, and tree protection during construction
Regulations define responsibilities and authority of the tree warden, procedure for maintaining, removing, and planting trees in the public way, prohibited acts, excavation, and penalties
Establishes and defines the roles of the Newton Tree Commission.
Chapter 20 - Private tree preservation and Public tree protection
Procedure for protecting Significant Trees
Establishes a tree committee as Tree Warden and defines duties.
Process for permitting for planting, pruning, removal, and construction within the dripline of a public tree
Significant Tree Ordinance
Protects public and private trees over 36” DBH or 75 years old.
Provisions for removal of non-hazardous shade trees and replacement
Includes provisions for tree removals, priority planting of street trees, including a preference for planting 8-20 ft from the traveled way, tree canopy goal, ongoing planning for plantings
Establishes a tree committee as Tree Warden and defines duties.
Provisions for protecting public trees, removal of non-hazardous trees, planting trees, topping, protection during construction, and cooperation with planning board
Includes tree protection, tree replacement, and street tree planting during sub-division development.
- Greenfield Parking Lot Ordinance
Parking lot guidelines to be added to zoning ordinance that includes some landscaping provisions.
Includes landscape standards during land development projects, tree preservation and site plan review.
Includes brief language for planting and preservation during subdivision projects.
Draft or Sample Tree Ordinances
(these may or may not have been approved and implemented)
- Brookline Draft
Similar to Lexington, defines duties of Tree Warden and protects trees during major re-development and residential re-development projects.
- Foxboro Draft
Includes creation of a tree committee, planting guidelines, provisions for maintaining private trees, and Landmark Tree protection.
- Pittsfield Draft
Includes duties of the tree warden, adoption of chapter 87, and a process for planting, pruning and removing public hazard and non-hazard trees.
- Model Tree Clearing Ordinance from Cape Cod Commission
Model bylaw to govern tree and land clearing.
- Growing Your Community Forest : Developing and Sustaining Community Planting Programs – DCR Fact Sheet
- Tree Select : Selecting Trees for Your Urban and Community Forest – DCR Fact Sheet
- Set Back : One Tool for Improving Management of Your Urban and Community Forest – DCR Fact Sheet
- Planting Trees in Designed and Built Community Landscapes – Checklist for Success
- Developing Tree Purchase and Planting Specifications for Bid, Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin
- Tree Owner’s Manual for the Northeastern and Midwestern States Information on planting and maintenance
- Planting and After Care of Community Trees
- Mature Tree Care - ISA
- Why Hire an Arborist?
A “risk tree” is a tree with structural defects likely to cause failure of all or part of the tree, which could strike a “target.” A target can be a vehicle, building, or a place where people gather such as a park bench, picnic table, street, or backyard. Because of the natural variability of trees, the severity of their defects, and the different sites upon which they grow, evaluating trees for hazardous defects can be a complex process. Inspecting trees for potential hazard liability is one of the most important components of any tree management system.
Find out more information about risk trees, risk tree rating, and risk tree management from the USDA Forest Service Northeast Center for urban and community forestry.
How to Recognize Hazardous Defects in Trees – Forest Service Publication This fully-illustrated, easy to read, training manual is designed to improve public safety and protect tree health by assisting communities to design, adopt, and implement tree risk management programs; and training field staff to detect, assess, and correct hazardous defects in urban trees.”
- Protecting Trees from Construction: A Homeowners Guide
- Trees and Construction: This site provides more detailed information on the impacts of construction on trees
- Preventing Construction Damage to Trees - A University of Missouri Extension Publication
- Preserving Trees in Construction Sites: Publication from Mississippi Extension Service that outlines how to select trees for preservation and provides guidelines on tree protection
- Treatment of Trees Damaged During Construction - ISA
- Trees and Roads Working Together: DCR Fact Sheet
- The USDA Forest Service’s Tree Emergency Planning Worksheet
- The Forest Service’s Storm Damage Resource Center
- i-Tree Storm—Free program that helps assess tree damage after a storm
- Emerald Ash Borer
- EAB Slides
- Emerald Ash Borer
- Emerald Ash Borer University—view webcasts on EAB as well as other invasive insect pests.
- Emerald Ash Borer Toolbox Wisconsin DNR site with information for municipalities. It covers many topics including ordinances, plans, detection, management, and others
- USDA Forest Service
- USDA APHIS
- Mass NRC EAB Alert
- Recommendations for Handling Ash
- Asian Longhorned Beetle
- For Sudden Oak Death information and recommendations from the California Oak Mortality Task Force
- USDA Forest Service Pest Alerts! Can be found here
- For more information on alien plant invaders of natural areas, click here
- For information on invasive species in Massachusetts, click here
- Prohibited Plant List for Massachusetts , Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
- Massachusetts Introduced Pest Outreach Project
If urban and community forestry is ever to be sustainable, then the benefits that an urban forest provides must be translated into tangible funding. Massachusetts communities recycle urban wood for mulch and fire wood, but perhaps there opportunities to do more with the products of the urban forest.
- Utilizing Municipal Trees—USDA FS publication with examples on programs from around the United States
- Urban Wood—website from California’s Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute on urban wood
- Wood Recycling and Utilization - Article from Tree Services Magazine on Midwestern wood utilization programs
- Wood Education and Resource Center—USDA FS facility with a goal of promoting sustainable utilization of wood, including urban wood. Click on webcast archive for past presentations that pertain to utilizing urban wood.
- Ash Utilization Options Project in southeast Michigan provides information, training, and research on utilizing ash wood from quarantine areas with some excellent example projects from the area.
Urban forestry strategies can help satisfy many stormwater management requirements in a cost effective manner. Trees, forests, and other natural areas effectively manage water through interception, evopo-transpiration, and infiltration. Together, these processes can significantly reduce peak stormwater flows, stabilize base flows, and naturally filter drinking water.
- See our May, 2003 Citizen Forester Article “Wat'er Trees Got to Do with It?”
- Stormwater Management - The Role of Trees and Forests—Webinar on stormwater from Penn State
- Trees: The Oldest New Thing in Stormwater Treatment
- Managing Stormwater for Urban Sustainability Using Trees and Structural Soils
- Urban Watershed Forestry Manual file size 3MB
- EPA Soak Up the Rain
- Low Impact Development Center- Lots of resources for LID projects including design templates, studies, and articles
- Massachusetts Low Impact Development Toolkit—Factsheet #1 Bioretention Areas
Rain Gardens: A Way to Improve Water Quality in Our Communities--University of Massachusetts
- Where are all the Cool Parking Lots? For urban planners, DPW staff, and other interested in a fact sheet on integrating trees into parking lots to reduce stormwater and temperatures
- See our Citizen Forester article for November 2003 "Air Quality, Public Health and the Role of Urban Forests”
- USDA Forest Service Northeast Research Station details research on the interaction between urban forests and air quality.
- US EPA Air Quality Planning and Standards Site and US EPA, Region 1 ( New England ) Air Quality Site: These US EPA web sites link to information about air quality, federal regulations and real-time air quality data.
- Green roofs are one promising option for adding cool green pervious surface back into dense urbanized landscape where there are often few other options left. For more information visit
- Air Quality Effects of Urban Trees and Parks—Report for the National Recreation and Park Association
The growing interest in historic landscape preservation has given rise to numerous organizations and programs – and there's lots of information available on the web. A sampling:
- The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation sponsors a number of programs that promote and facilitate historic landscape preservation. http://www.mass.gov/dcr/stewardship/histland/histland.htm
- The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has a bibliography of print and online resources on Bibliography
- The National Park Service, Preservation Brief: Protecting Cultural Landscapes Planning, Treatment and Management of Historic Landscapes
- The National Park Service's Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation in Boston , Massachusetts conducts research and planning and promotes sustainable preservation maintenance practices.
- The Landscape Institute at the Boston Architectural College provides professional education in landscape design and landscape history.
- The Cultural Landscape Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to increasing public awareness of cultural landscapes.
- Established in 1891, The Trustees of Reservations is a statewide not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving scenic, historic and natural landscapes across the Commonwealth. thetrustees.org/
- If you have a particular interest in landscapes designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and the Olmsted Brothers, check out the web site for the National Association for Olmsted Parks.
- Planting Trees in Your Community Forest is a primer on the importance of trees in the community produced by Penn State . This richly illustrated, easy-to-read 40-page publication includes tree-related puzzles, projects, and other activities for 9- to 109-year-olds. It covers tree parts, types of trees, how to plant trees, insects and diseases that affect trees, caring for trees, and more. It includes a helpful glossary and sources for more information. (1999)
- Project Learning Tree(PLT) is an award winning, broad-based environmental education program for educators and students in Pre K - grade 12. PLT helps students learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think, about the environment. PLT, a program of the American Forest Foundation, is one of the most widely used environmental education programs in the United States and abroad.
- The Forest Where Ashley Lives, An interactive CD-ROM, is now available from Iowa State University Extension. The CD contains a version for teachers and students, including many urban forestry publications and activities. A version of the book can be viewed here. The CD and book can be ordered by clicking here.
Please check out some examples of what other Massachusetts communities did this year to celebrate Arbor Day by clicking here .
Arbor Day Foundation Guide for Celebration Arbor Day
- Check out the i-Tree website for the latest information on the offerings in the i-Tree software suite
- City of Worcester STRATUM Report file size 2MB
- USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area, Publications on Urban and Community Forestry
Urban Forestry South Online Library – Links to publications, keyword search