Last years changes to the RMA regarding urban tree protection have highlighted the need for greater involvement from the public in preserving the Urban Forest. Refer to the Tree Council Arbor Day seminar Sustaining Auckland: The Role of Trees .
Have a look at what is happening in the US city of San Francisco. The Urban Forest Map is being built to engage the community in creating a greener, more liveable urban environment. Its a collaboration between government, nonprofits, and businesses with an aim to map every tree in the San Francisco area.
Once complete, people can search for particular types of trees, and add new ones that haven't yet been mapped by simply putting a dot on the map where they're located and then providing as much information about the tree as they can, including photos and factors such as species, size and trunk diameter.
Citizens can verify the facts about the trees near them as well, updating as necessary to help track changes as the urban forest grows. The information added to the Urban Forest Map will be used by urban forest managers, landscape architects and planners to estimate future growth and planting opportunities, improve wildlife habitat, maximize ecosystem services, and grow a strong and healthy urban forest.
Perhaps even more interesting, however, is that for each and every tree, the Urban Forest Map taps a US Forest Service model to calculate the environmental benefits it's providing: how many liters of stormwater it's helping to filter, how many kilograms of air pollutants it's capturing, how many kilowatt-hours of energy it's conserving and how many tons of carbon dioxide it's removing from the atmosphere.
This is real community involvement and demonstrates the way the world is moving when it comes to community issues - crowd involvement rather than legislation.
Similar 'crowd-based' tree protection and management organizations already exist in New Zealand. The Tree Council is one and the other is Notable Trees of New Zealand Trust , a non-profit organization providing a unique record of notable trees throughout New Zealand.
The big difference between the San Francisco model and ours is the use of technology to engage the community and, of course, the demonstration of economic value referenced back to each individual tree. This makes the value of urban trees seem very tangible - even for the cynics!
Thanks to Springwise for this lead.