Urban Forestry Management Plan

The City of Bellingham is creating an Urban Forestry Management Plan (UFMP). The purpose of the UFMP is to create a strategic plan that helps maintain a healthy and desirable urban forest through well-coordinated, consistent, efficient, and sustainable long-term urban forest management. See below to learn more about Bellingham’s urban forest.

Project Status

Phase 2 (Community Values) is complete. Phase 3 (Plan Development) is underway.

Phase 2 Engagement Summary is available: Thank you for sharing your input during the May – June 2022 engagement period for Phase 2 (Community Values)! Results are available under Additional Resources near the bottom of this page. Results from Phases 1 and 2 will be used to create the Urban Forestry Management Plan. Please see Phase 3 (Plan Development) for additional information.

November 21, 2022 Council Presentation – City staff provided a summary presentation of the results of Phase 2 and discussed the work that will be done in 2023 to complete the UFMP. View presentation materials.

Stay informed with email updates: Please sign up to receive email updates about the UFMP process, feedback opportunities, and new resources.

More Information

Learn about Bellingham’s urban forest and Urban Forestry Management Plan through the following resources.

Bellingham’s urban forest consists of all the trees in the City on both public and private property. The urban forest includes street trees, park trees, forested open spaces, trees on institutional campuses and trees in many private ownership settings, ranging from parking lots to backyards.

Graphic showing the components of Bellingham's urban forest, including the marina, downtown, institutions, commercial areas, residential areas, and open space.

The forests on the Coast Salish land and waters we call Bellingham today have been cared for by the peoples of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation and Nuxwsa’7aq (Nooksack) Tribe since time immemorial. The forests of this region were much altered with Euro-American settlement and, today, forested parks and riparian areas intermingle with urban trees to create the mosaic of native and introduced tree species that make up Bellingham’s urban forest. It is estimated the City and urban growth area together have approximately 10,076 acres of forest, including 3,186 acres of parks and public open spaces!

Learn more about urban forests in the video below. (Con subtitulos en español).

Video by the City of Bellingham, May 2022.

In 2022 Bellingham created its first State of the Urban Forest Report. The report establishes a baseline for Bellingham’s urban forest by quantifying its distribution, structure, and some of the value it provides to our community. The purpose of the report is to summarize information about Bellingham’s urban forest to inform goal setting and to establish the baseline for measuring future change. The findings in this report are based on analyses completed in 2021 using data available for 2003, 2013 and 2018 combined with limited ground truthing.

Learn about findings through the Urban Forest Storymap and State of the Urban Forest Report.

The City recognizes the value of trees and is a proud Tree City USA community; recognized nationally for our citizen-based effort to sustain our urban forest. We understand trees not only beautify an area, but also provide shade, reduce levels of noise and dust, increase property values, reduce stormwater runoff, produce oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, improve wellbeing, and provide habitat for wildlife.

While the citizens of Bellingham have long valued urban forests, the City has not had an overarching strategic plan to help guide management and stewardship efforts.

The intent is to create such a strategic plan in keeping with City’s Comprehensive Plan: 

“The City’s urban forest should be managed in a way that optimizes the environmental, economic and social benefits it provides. An urban forestry management plan is the best tool for maintaining a healthy and desirable urban forest.” – City of Bellingham Comprehensive Plan (2016, p. 12).

Bellingham’s Urban Forestry Management Plan (UFMP) will provide:

  • Baseline information on the current state of Bellingham’s urban forest
  • A long-term vision for our urban forest
  • Shared community values and goals
  • Short, medium, and long-term strategies and actions to reach our community vision

Project Scope Overview

The development of the UFMP will be a phased approach.

  • Phase 1 – Assessment. Tasks:
    • Tree Canopy Assessment
    • Street Tree Inventory
    • Canopy Change Analysis
    • Forest Structure Analysis
    • Wildlife Corridor Analysis
    • Wildland-Urban Interface Analysis
  • Phase 2 – Goals Establishment. Tasks:
    • Community Values, Goals, and Objectives
  • Phase 3 – Plan Development. Tasks:
    • Review Current Practices
    • Prioritize Forest/Tree Management Actions
    • Plan Development

All phases include community outreach. More detail about each phase is provided below.

Phase 1 Assessment consisted of documenting the location and extent of the City’s tree canopy and inventorying the location and condition of individual street trees. In addition to these inventories, Phase 1 included four analyses:  a Canopy Change Analysis to identify canopy change, potential causes, and trends to inform management; a Forest Structure Analysis to assess forest maturity (age class), type, tree height, strata, and health; a Wildlife Corridor Analysis utilizing surrogate species to provide information on the location of high-value open spaces and connections; and a Wildland-Urban Interface Analysis to determine location and degree of fire risk.

Phase 1 concluded in 2021. Please see Additional Resources below for results.

Map of forested areas within City of Bellingham limits

Phase 2 will focus on learning about community values, goals, and objectives for our urban forest. These values, goals and objectives – together with the results of Phase 1 (Assessment) – will form the foundation for Phase 3, Plan Development.

Phase 2 timeline:

  • May – June 2022: Community feedback opportunities
  • November 2022: Report results to City Council

Phase 3 consists of preparing an Urban Forestry Management Plan. The plan will include the results of all prior tasks and develop a strategic plan for articulating values, goals, and objectives. The plan will also describe recommended priority actions, strategies, staffing, resources, funding, and funding mechanisms. Finally, the plan will include measures and milestones to evaluate success. ​

Phase 3 will include opportunities for community feedback on the draft plan. Approval of the final plan will be completed by City Council.

Phase 3 timeline:

  • November 2022 – March 2023: Draft plan preparation
  • April – May 2023: Community feedback on draft plan
  • August – October 2023: Plan approval

Additional Resources

Reports and Resources

Council Presentations


Analiese Burns
Habitat and Restoration Manager
Public Works Natural Resources
(360) 778-7968