Contemporary Issues in Urban Forest Management: #1 Natural Areas

Natural areas within our growing metropolitan regions play a significant role in maintaining the health and economic vitality of residents, and the conservation of wild plants and animals.

Management of natural areas, with their intricate biological cycles, is a long-term investment. Any attempt at restoration of habitat values and their conservation should reflect this reality. For this reason the design and management of urban natural areas should be undertaken cooperatively with city residents, local government and wildlife science experts. Community involvement in planning and management is an absolute necessity for efficient and effective conservation urban conservation programs.

Examples of long-term goals for urban natural area management:

  1. All areas support both conservation and public engagement, and tie activities to the ecological quality of the site;
  2. Promote the value of natural landscapes as well maintained, inviting and safe;
  3. Restoration and stewardship to sustain ecological function and values are based upon site-specific plans;
  4. Natural areas, greenways and trail connections enable people, animals, water and plants to move unobstructed through the region;
  5. The community has a formal and functional role in conservation decisions;
  6. Everyone feels welcome visiting the natural areas;
  7. Access is available by use of public transportation;
  8. Facilities comply with ADA and provide equivalent access to all habitat types;
  9. Programs are targeted to audiences of different comfort and skill levels;
  10. Diverse audiences are engaged in meaningful conservation projects; and
  11. Adequate long-term funding is ensured through government budgets and grants, and public-private partnerships.

Unlike their counterparts in rural regions, urban natural areas are dominated by human culture and the engineered environment. Effective management requires the integration of natural area use and conservation into urban design, with the ongoing emphasis on public engagement. This will be challenging and relatively unknown operational territory for both wildlife biologists and urban planners.

For more information on this issues:

Forest Preserves of Cook County  – http://nextcenturyconservationplan.org/

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – https://www.fws.gov/urban/