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    Climbers' CornerTree Academy

    Municipal Forestry in Texas: The Application of a Unique Combination of Performance Metrics


    The purpose of this research study was to assess the current state of municipal forestry programs in Texas. This survey was designed to be repeated in the future so that Texas can track changes in municipal forestry programs over time, emulating California and Oregon. The four major factors this research study measures and compares against each other are 1) municipal forestry program success, 2) municipal spending on urban forestry activities, 3) quantity of assistance received from the State Urban Forestry Program, and 4) the population of each city.

    Expenditures on urban forestry activities are low compared to the findings of related literature and represent a continued downward slide. On average, Texas cities of any size are spending less on urban forestry per capita today than the average U.S. city was spending at any period previously recorded; 1974, 1980, 1986 or 1994. If the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA expenditure requirement of $2 per capita (set in 1974) is adjusted for inflation, it rises to $9.38 in 2012 dollars; only about 13% of respondents meet or exceed this adjusted value. Additionally, spending on urban forestry as a percentage of a municipality’s total budget is quite low.

    There appears to be a strong connection between a city receiving assistance from the Texas A&M Forest Service and those cities currently possessing the critical elements of an urban and community forestry program. Strong tree ordinances are relatively common in Texas municipalities, including municipal codes that protect trees on private property during construction activity or regulate the removal of trees on private property.

     Tree boards and non-profit groups are both fairly common as well. Urban forestry management plans are very uncommon and there appears to be a strong connection between high expenditure rates and management plans. The same connection to high expenditure rate can’t be made with tree inventories of street trees or park trees which are also very uncommon, whether they are comprehensive or sample inventories. Many municipalities appear to be on proactive tree maintenance cycles despite the lack of any inventory at all.   

    This research is interesting because it utilizes a unique combination of measurements to gauge municipal forestry activity. This ideal combination of measurements is worth repeating in other states. Some of the results of the research study are surprising, and are therefore interesting and useful to other researchers.   


    Keith O’Herrin grew up in the rural Kickapoo River valley in the heart of the ‘Driftless Area’ (Southwest Wisconsin). He received his B.S. in Urban Forestry from University Wisconsin – Stevens Point before working as the City Forester of La Porte, Indiana for 2 years. He then worked for the Urban Forestry Program of the City of Austin, Texas for about 4 years . He received a Masters of Public Administration from Texas State University in December 2013. He is now pursuing a PhD in Urban Forestry from Virginia Tech.

    Climbers' CornerTree Academy

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