In November 2016 we submitted the following comments about the Draft Urban Forest Management Plan, which the City released in September of that year.
The draft UFMP describes a good initiative that, when implemented, will change and improve the green space in our city, delivering attendant social, health, and economic benefits. With a just few, key changes it can be a transformative initiative that ushers in change earlier with improved chance for success by better leveraging the resources of partner organizations throughout the city.
As stated in our December 2015 submission, the number one challenge is getting the funding needed for sufficient resources to implement the UFMP effectively. You must address two issues:
a. Allocation of budget by City Council – Politicians need to understand the benefits that a growing and healthy tree canopy provides to the city. They need qualitative and quantitative information to sell any increase in budget to their constituents.
b. Leveraging community resources – The City can get more done with less money by working with local organizations and volunteers. See #2 below recommending hiring a Stewardship Coordinator earlier.
Cost–Benefit Analysis: the Power of Telling a Story – You can illustrate the advantages of improved tree canopy on a small scale: take some of the benefit metrics identified in the plan and its references, and apply them hypothetically to a selected Ottawa neighbourhood. For example, work with a supportive councillor and identify a less privileged neighbourhood in his/her ward with low canopy cover and a higher crime rate and/or poor health statistics. Based on metrics from studies in other cities, what improvements can you forecast if the canopy is increased by x%? Show on a map where the canopy improvements can be made and describe how this will positively affect the community.
It is also important to prepare a rough order of magnitude cost for Management Period 1 showing the delta increase from current expenditure levels. Show where resources are redeployed and reprioritized, and what activities new funding provides.
Scoring and Perception – Related to budget allocation is the perception that we’re doing really well now based on how you’ve scored the City on current capability and capacity in the Criteria and Indicators (C&I) Baseline Assessment. There is no incentive for Council to increase funding if the city has the resources it needs. However, the scores are based on the scope of existing responsibilities and do not reflect the increase in scope that will occur when the UFMP is put in place. For those C&I that will be affected by scope increase you should use a two score system – status before and status after the UFMP. The before-and-after conditions highlight to councillors the challenges that city resources will face. Some affected C&I are:
- M4 – UFMP in Place – From Low to Optimal (a good change!).
- M5 – Funding – Changes from “Good” to “Moderate”. Existing funding will be insufficient to implement the plan and builds the case for a Stewardship Coordinator.
- M6 – Capacity – Changes from “Good” to “Moderate” or even to “Low”. The City may think it has “Good” capacity now (external observers who judge on outcome may disagree), but what is the score when the UFMP is put in place? If you think you will have enough resources, why would Council allocate more?
- M7 – Tree Planning – Changes from “Good” to “Moderate”. The scope of this will increase dramatically as the planting of more trees accelerates under the plan.
2. Move Stewardship Coordinator to Management Period 1
As the consultants stated at one of the public sessions, they’ve never seen such a high level of engagement in the development of a UFMP as they’ve seen in Ottawa, a highly educated city of knowledge workers and many “retired” professionals. Use them!
In Recommendation #24 – shift the stewardship coordinator to Management Period 1. This single action has a large positive impact as outlined below.
- The coordinator is needed to orchestrate the activities of all the community groups; otherwise chaos, incoherence, and overlap will occur and opportunities lost.
- The cost of the coordinator is returned many times over by the free knowledge and labour of motivated volunteers channeled to generate outcomes aligned with the plan. Start with pilot projects; you don’t need perfect information to get going.
- Earlier deployment of the coordinator results in early and tangible successes. Most of the Outreach Recommendations (#24 to #30) occur in Management Periods 2 and 3. Advancing these activities results in more trees planted earlier in the 20 year plan in places where they will provide the greatest benefit.
- Good bang for your buck: many of the Community Resource C&Is (C1 to C7) are scored “Moderate”, and therefore have a large scope for improvement to Good or Optimal.
Note: earlier deployment may change the phasing of other Recommendations.
3. Missed Opportunities
Low Impact Development (LID) – The UFMP mentions LID once in Recommendation #30 as one of the suggested implementation guidelines. We need to make the design of future suburbs environmentally sustainable from the start by retaining mature trees throughout new developments as part of the storm water management system. We need the Planning Department on board with LID. LID must be added to Recommendation #11 both as a Best Practice and under the Implementation Guidelines.
Improve Suburban Representation – All of the community groups active in the Key Stakeholder sessions were from established, core neighbourhoods, which have different urban forest issues than younger, suburban developments. We need to better engage these communities in the UFMP implementation.
Tree Steward Program – Under Recommendation #25’s Implementation Guidance, add: Encourage a local organization to develop a certified tree steward program (see my November 2015 comments) that is recognized by the City through the Stewardship Coordinator. Tree Stewards can act as neighbourhood tree ambassadors and assist with care and pruning of newly planted trees.
Notable and/or Heritage Tree Program – Under Recommendation #25’s Implementation Guidance, add: Encourage a local organization to develop and manage a registry of and web site for heritage and notable trees. This program will promote tree appreciation and be a tourist attraction.
4. Other Miscellaneous Comments
Wherever you are measuring collaboration in the C&Is, measure tangible outcomes for the forest not the level of interaction (see C3, C4, C5, C7). Collaborating in meetings does not necessarily imply effective results.
Where is the federal government included in the C&Is? If in C2 or C7, then list it explicitly.
M9 – Tree Maintenance – Change the score from “Good” to “Moderate”. We see trees planted in the last 3 years that desperately need pruning. This is related to Recommendation #13, which should be implemented earlier. It will have a big payoff in terms of survivability and less maintenance of mature trees.