Environmental justice, equity goals, and implementation strategies in urban forest management: A case study of San Francisco, USA

Authors: Amber Grant*, Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group, Ryerson University, Andrew A Millward, Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group, Ryerson University, Sara Edge, Geography & Environmental Studies, Ryerson Univesity
Topics: Urban Geography, Planning Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: city trees, urban forest management, environmental justice, equity, sustainability
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Congressional A, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Extensive evidence-based research by scholars and practitioners has shown that urban trees provide numerous social and ecological benefits to city dwellers who live in their presence, or have regular exposure to them. As a result, several municipalities in North America have begun strengthening urban forest governance through the development and implementation of urban forest management plans (UFMPs). UFMPs typically include strategies to improve biodiversity, promote the planting of native tree species, enhance community engagement with trees, and increase overall tree canopy cover. In some cases, UFMPs discuss the importance of embracing community diversity and inclusion to address equity concerns in the planning and planting of future urban tree canopy. Despite this, trees are not equitably distributed among and within city neighbourhoods and, therefore, concerns can be raised about unequal access for marginalized communities, in particular racialized and low-income groups. This paper investigates how urban forest managers in San Francisco, USA conceptualize, define, and address issues of environmental justice within their official urban forest planning and strategy documents. We first describe San Francisco’s UFMP and related policy documents to understand the definitions and pursuit of equity goals that exemplify evidence of distributional, procedural, and recognitional justice. We then report on key-informant interviews with the authors of the San Francisco’s UFMP, and similar strategic documents, to: (1) Better understand how these decision makers define or measure equity and; (2) Explore decision maker capacity (e.g., knowledge, staff resources, will) to make choices that support equity goals.

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