With the goal of a healthy, resilient, equitable, and just New York City in mind, The Nature Conservancy organized a coalition of nearly 50 organizations and 70 participants who created and endorsed the Agenda and its nature-based solutions. NYLCV supports the NYC Urban Forest Agenda for its focus on parks, climate change mitigation, and resiliency. Park space is important for preserving open, non-contaminated landscapes, which have a positive impact on resiliency, biodiversity, and the environment.
Most importantly, trees work to solve a variety of environmental challenges, including air pollution and carbon emissions, energy savings, mitigating stormwater runoff, urban heat, and overall public health. Trees play an especially important role in cooling the city, which faces increased temperatures due to the urban island effect. Trees help lower temperatures through shading and evapotranspiration. Urban forests also serve as a large carbon sink, absorbing and storing carbon, while simultaneously supplying wildlife with habitat. To top off its benefits, trees offer a calming solace in the busy city. Financially, trees account for an estimated $260 million in their services.
Unfortunately, trees are not equitably distributed across the city. Communities with less tree canopy cover often suffer the most risk from heat-related illness or death–the fewer trees, the heightened experience of heat vulnerability. Generally, lower-income households also are exposed to worse air quality without the necessary trees available to absorb harmful pollutants. Thus, the urban forest holds importance especially for environmental justice and frontline communities.
Trees also face their own set of environmental and human threats, ranging from rampant climate change to pests and pathogens. While public trees are required to be replaced by New York City after their removal, trees on public and private property are rarely protected. Even when replaced, the tree’s effects are stifled until a new one returns to the same level of maturity. Privately owned land also makes up around 35% of NYC’s tree canopy and is virtually all unprotected, making conservation measures abundantly necessary.
To tackle these goals, the NYC Urban Forest Agenda follows four main strategies: Plan, Invest, Manage, and Learn. Among these actions includes achieving 30% canopy cover by 2035. Forest for All NYC will help bring the agenda’s vision to fruition, to justly grow the urban forest and create a community-supported plan.
Climate change is an existential threat to our future, and New York City and trees can only survive if the necessary actions are taken. Forest for All NYC and NYLCV believe investing in our urban forests now is an important downpayment for our future.