New plan manages Austin’s urban forest

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s taken 20 years to put the Urban Forestry Plan in place, but now the City of Austin has a new way of managing its green space. City council approved the plan in March.

“It’s really putting trees at the forefront, which is a key difference between now versus in the past,” said Angela Hanson, the City of Austin’s urban forester. “I would say that a lot of cities particularly progressive municipalities like Austin are starting to move in that direction. It’s a really exciting thing to see.”

The idea is to consider trees as part of the city’s infrastructure, not just beautification.

“Cities in general are starting to see the real benefit trees provide to communities, not only environmental benefits or places that are beautiful that people can visit, but really as critical to city infrastructure,” said Hanson. “So on the front end when design decisions are being made, trees need to be involved.”

The drought made the need for a plan more pressing. Ten percent of Austin’s trees have died because of the dry conditions.

“That’s something that’s really been a wake-up call for us and it’s really the perfect time to drive a plan like this forward,” said Hanson. “We need to be proactive in looking 20 years ahead.”

According the Hanson, the first phase includes collecting data on what species make up Austin’s urban forest and how much canopy cover it provides. They’re also looking into the specific benefits of the greenery and researching invasive species and insect threats.

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