The Climate For Managing Our Community Forest

Sometimes you come across a discussion which translates directly into another topic of interest.

Local environmental advocate Ann Drumm wrote a recent essay discussing how vital it is for Texas to make ready for the inevitable changes coming our way through climate change.  As I was reading this post about becoming 'climate-resilient' in the Dallas Morning News, I realized the extent to which her stated points of focus that should draw our attention mirrored that of the needs of strong community forest management.

A task force report she described in her essay emphasized specific areas where planning for climate change impacts is needed to protect our communities from the pending onslaught of climate-induced hardships.  The report included the following:

  • land use and building design
  • public and private infrastructure investments
  • natural resources, such as the Great Trinity Forest
  • human health
  • hazard mitigation and disaster preparedness and recovery
  • economic impacts
  • public engagement.

Each and every topic described above is fundamental to establishing and practicing a strong community forest management program.  A forest management program is important in establishing goals and centralizing a course of action for sustaining the local green infrastructure and tree renewal in the community for future generations. Such management programs define our goals and purpose and intent in protecting our future.  In this context, if we do not conserve our community forest, we will segregate many of our children to an impoverished land while we profit in parceling it for our own limited economic benefits.

I am currently squarely focused in preparing for major code amendments to a landscape and tree ordinance. But it is vital we understand that an ordinance is only a limited tool used to establish benchmarks, limitations (if any), and design strategy.  The ordinances that are used to regulate development within our community can only provide guidelines for action in protecting and establishing our trees for development. How we use all of our tools - not just ordinances - will define our success. The true effectiveness of a community forest program is found in all - not one - of the focal points.  

Arguably, the most important area of concentration may be in 'public engagement.'  It's when the community can understand and grasp how the community forest protects them, and will protect their progeny in generations to come, that the other parts of the puzzle come together.  It takes social action in neighborhoods, and open positive discussion and action, to bring about positive changes in our social climate that protects the entire biotic community from the ravages of climate change.

Our inadequacy as a community is that our vision is too often limited to OUR gains, OUR economy, OUR whims and desires.  We all too often forget the long term impacts from our decisions today.  Planning is about the future, but we must also anticipate this future for more than ten years at a time.  A community forest protects us but, depending on how we plan our growth, it may segregate those who are with a protective and nurturing forest, from those we have left without one.  Neighborhood forests follow paths of prosperity, and where our communities fail, we often find the neighborhood forest in decline as well. Growth without regard of the green infrastructure around us is not growth but only a new mutation on the city landscape that will fester and remain barren.  Planting trees is not enough.  Maintaining the trees, establishing quality growth conditions, and sustaining these trees to maturity demands community interest and careful planning that reaches even into the sovereign realm of economic development.  It requires investment, management, and vision.

As our climate changes, our social climate for adaptation must also change with it.  Our process for adaptability with our forest is the same.  If we are to care for our progeny, then we must care for our community forest.  We must then nurture both.


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