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Not by trees alone: Centering community in urban forestry

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Landscape and Urban Planning


Urban forestry and urban greening efforts are blossoming as cities and towns work to enhance their open spaces as green infrastructure that provides multiple benefits. This work has reached new urgency given the need for both high-performance landscapes that can mitigate the effects of climate change and accessible, safe greenspaces that can support community well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, activists, practitioners, scholars, and decision-makers–particularly those within Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and frontline communities who bear the brunt of negative impacts–are calling for the need to attend to environmental justice implications of greening efforts. Following a review of the literature, we draw upon our observations as researchers embedded in the field of urban and community forestry to offer three themes and related guiding questions that can help advance that work: 1) supporting human capacity and care (investments in people and organizations); 2) community organizing beyond the green silo (intersectional and cross-sectoral approaches); and 3) re-envisioning the functions of the urban forest (productive systems and biocultural approaches). Our perspective is inspired by the work of residents, practitioners, and decision-makers who are engaging in reflection and innovation in pursuit of “just cities” that can enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion as critical to and inseparable from sustainability and resilience. We suggest that the field of urban forestry draw upon a community forestry ethos as we center the needs, capacities, and priorities of historically marginalized communities at the heart of the work of creating more just, sustainable cities.


Community forestry; Diversity; equity and inclusion; Just cities; Sustainability


Campbell, Lindsay K.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Johnson, Michelle L.; Plitt, Sophie. 2022. Not by trees alone: Centering community in urban forestry. Landscape and Urban Planning. 224(6): 104445. 8 p.

Last updated on: May 23, 2022