A brief his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive of ur­ban forests in Canada

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - News - By Michael Rosen, R.P.F.

In re­cent years, a greater amount of in­ter­est has been in ex­pressed in ur­ban forests – partly as a re­sult of in­creas­ing ur­ban­iza­tion but also due to new threats in­clud­ing the in­va­sive in­sect, emer­ald ash borer. Ur­ban forests in Canada have been dom­i­nated by three themes: su­per­fi­cial sup­port by the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments, in­di­vid­u­als’ com­mit­ment to de­vel­op­ing ur­ban forests of ex­cel­lence, and aware­ness and ac­tion fu­eled by nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

Canada – the Ur­ban Peo­ple in a For­est Na­tion

The world looks to Canada as a for­est leader – and with good rea­son. With 417.6 mil­lion hectares of for­est (10 per cent of the world) Canada leads in many of the stan­dard, in­dus­trial forestry mea­sures: “tim­ber-pro­duc­tive for­est land”, “al­low­able an­nual cut”, “area burned by for­est fire” and “area of cer­ti­fied for­est”.

How dis­con­cert­ing it can be to learn that well over 80 per cent of Canadians live in cities and towns — their con­nec­tion to the for­est com­ing not from na­tional parks or “wilder­ness” but from their neigh­bour­hood park, road­side trees and back­yards. Within the forestry pro­fes­sion, “ur­ban forests” are still re­garded as a “spe­cialty field”, pos­si­bly be­cause of the de­press­ing im­pli­ca­tion that trees are less seen as a “re­source” and more as an en­tity to pre­serve and pro­tect for solely en­vi­ron­men­tal/so­cial pur­poses.

Canadians’ iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with trees can be found ev­ery­where. The maple leaf adorns Canada’s flag and shield. Many com­mu­ni­ties’ names proudly com­mem­o­rate an ar­bo­real con­nec­tion: “Oakville”, “Pointe-au-chêne” and “Cedar”. Cana­dian ur­ban for­est ad­vo­cacy groups: “Trees Lon­don”, “Green Here” and “SOVERDI” pro­claim­ing the value of trees and bring­ing pock­ets of ur­ban for­est ex­cel­lence into com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try. Cana­dian mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, univer­si­ties and cit­i­zen groups con­tinue to do very cre­ative things in ur­ban for­est man­age­ment, with many ap­proaches bor­rowed from the United States and the Euro­pean com­mu­nity.

The Start­ing Point: Ur­ban Parks

The cre­ation of a na­tional, ur­ban park sys­tem fig­ured early in the thought process of the young Canada. The need to pro­vide recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties to those liv­ing

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