The City of Bellingham is creating an Urban Forestry Management Plan (UFMP). Development of the first phase of the UFMP is with a consultant selected for their notable experience and skills in urban forestry assessment and management. 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. The UFMP will encompass all trees, in forests and elsewhere, within City limits and the Urban Growth Area (UGA).
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The City of Bellingham is home to more than 90,000 citizens and encompasses 28 square miles, with an additional 8 square miles of UGA. The City has a rich variety of recreational, cultural, educational, and economic activities, and has retained many important natural resources including its urban forest.
Bellingham’s urban forest consists of forest and trees in the City on both public and private property, including street trees, park trees, forested parklands, trees on institutional campuses and trees in many private ownership settings, ranging from parking lots to backyards. It is estimated the City and UGA together have approximately 10,076 acres of forest within its boundaries, including 3,186 acres of parks and public open spaces (Attachment “A” above), as well as 3,000 – 5,000 street trees.
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 the vision established in the 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).
The development of the UFMP will be a phased approach. These phases are described below.
Phase 1 – Assessment (2020)
Phase 1 Assessment consists 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 includes 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 2 – Goals Establishment (date TBD)
Phase 2 consists of documenting community values, goals, and objectives for urban forest management to form the basis for future management decisions. This documentation will consist of gathering input from residents, interest groups, stakeholders, and City staff utilizing a 50- to 100-year planning horizon.
Phase 3 – Plan Development (date TBD)
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 achieving the established values, goals, and objectives. The plan will also describe recommended staffing, resources, funding, and funding mechanisms for each strategy. Finally, the plan will include measures and milestones to evaluate success.