Jan. 9, 2017 -Julie Ryan
Dallas launched its new Urban Forestry Division Jan. 1, joining Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, all cities with professionally staffed forestry programs or departments.
Until now, Dallas had one urban forester for the entire city, and a few arborists who work solely to ensure developers comply with the city’s tree ordinance. The new forestry division starts with a half million dollar budget and a staff of three to five people, says Larry Hochberg, chairman of the city’s Urban Forestry Advisory Committee. UFAC developed the original proposal and advocated for it at City Hall.
“It’s pretty phenomenal, given the city’s budget constraints,” says Hochberg. “Over five years we’ll scale up to comparable size with other cities.”
Last May, the Committee proposed a 20-person, $2.1 million department within the Park and Recreation Department. By the deciding November City Council budget hearing, the plan was revised to a phaseable start-up, in view of the city’s funding shortfall. Houston, Fort Worth and Austin spend from $1.4 to $12.5 million annually to care for city trees, with staffs of up to 30. All but Houston’s are part of their Park and Recreation departments.
The Urban Forestry Division is responsible for overseeing and maintaining all city trees on public rights-of-way. This includes identifying planting sites, assessing tree health and teaching citizens and staff about tree maintenance and best planting and care methods.