Urban and Community Forestry

Forests in the Community

The diversity of Arizona forests ranges from riparian gallery forests in the low deserts to sub-alpine and montane forests above 9,000 feet in elevation. Forests cover roughly 27% of the state and occupy 19.4 million acres. These forests are comprised of 37 species of coniferous and hardwood trees. The majority of forestland is located above the Mogollon Rim with distinct areas scattered throughout the rest of the state. Juniper and pinyon-juniper woodlands are the most abundant forest type in Arizona, occupying approximately 14.8 million acres, or 20.3% of the state.

Urban and Community Forests in Arizona

A view of trees on Mill Street in Tempe, Arizona.

Arizona’s urban forests are comprised of trees and vegetation in urban areas that have a special relationship to people - providing environmental services such as shading and cooling properties, providing wildlife habitat, cleaning the air of pollutants, and slowing stormwater runoff.

Urban forests are typically composed of a mix of native and introduced tree species. In southern Arizona, native species include paloverde, ironwood, mesquite and cottonwood trees, with introduced species such as eucalyptus, Australian sheoak (Causurina spp.), and various pines. Northern Arizona native trees are predominantly ponderosa pine and pinyon pine, oak and juniper, with several introduced species that can make their home in the cooler climate. It is important to note that several species planted for landscaping purposes can escape their original planting sites and invade other areas, with Russian olive, tamarisk, and tree-of-heaven being prime examples.

The majority of Arizona’s urban forests are located on private property, but they also include forests in and along urban parks, street trees, landscaped boulevards, public gardens, washes and wetlands, greenways, and nature preserves.

Approximately 6,016 square miles of Arizona land are classified as “urban” or “community”, which supports an estimated 47.2 million trees (USDA Forest Service, 2010). 

Why Community Forests Matter

Trees on a street.

Although “urban” or “community” forests account for only 5.3% of all the land in Arizona, it includes approximately 85% of the state’s population. Management of forests and trees within these lands has important implications for air and water quality, energy conservation through shading, diversity of wildlife habitat, maintenance of property values, and an improved quality of life for Arizona citizens.

The large number of urban trees greatly contributes to Arizona’s ecosystems and community well-being. Trees located in Arizona’s urban areas are estimated to store about 9.0 metric tons of carbon, and annually remove about 297,000 metric tons of carbon and 8,760 metric tons of air pollution. Arizona's urban trees offset the carbon dioxide production of about 62,500 passenger vehicles per year (a passenger car or truck produces on average 10,471 pounds of CO2 per year;  EPA Calculations and References).

Arizona's Urban and Community Forestry Program

Arizona State Forestry's Urban and Community Forestry Program is a cooperative forestry program, funded primarily by the USDA Forest Service, that focuses on the stewardship of urban natural resources. The Community Forestry Program provides technical assistance, education and other resources – responding to the needs of urban areas by helping communities maintain, restore and improve urban forest ecosystems throughout Arizona.

Program Objectives

Staff work directly with partners throughout Arizona to build healthy and sustainable communities by promoting urban forestry awareness, and by fostering local action. The Community Forestry program includes oversight and management of cost-share grant programs; promotion and management of the Arizona Tree City USA, Tree Line USA and Tree Campus USA programs; and planning and implementation of the Arizona Arbor Day celebrations. The Community Forestry Program, through partnerships with local organizations, also supports urban forest inventory and canopy development programs, tree-planting projects, local and state policy development, and local outreach and education programs.

Ultimately, the Community Forestry Program seeks to increase awareness and appreciation of urban forests in Arizona.

AZSF Complies with USDA Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination requirements

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