Trees Are Good, But Better for Some: Environmental Justice and the Management of Urban Forests in the United States

Authors: Andrew A Millward*, Department of Geography & Environmental Studies and Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group, Ryerson University, Amber Grant, Department of Geography & Environmental Studies and Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group, Ryerson University, Inga Borisenoka, Department of Geography & Environmental Studies and Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group, Ryerson University, Sara Edge, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Ryerson University
Topics: Environmental Justice
Keywords: urban forest management, environmental justice, sustainability
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 33
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While urban trees provide many social and ecological benefits to city residents, their distribution across city neighbourhoods is rarely equitable. This distributional injustice is present across US cities, and its origins are rooted in procedural and recognitional injustices. Using an environmental justice framework and mixed-method approach, this research analyzes the content of Urban Forest Management Plans (UFMPs) released by 88 municipalities across the US, over the last 19 years, and interrogates these plans for reference to considerations of environmental justice when undertaking the planning and implementation of urban forest management. A content analysis was conducted to determine: 1) the frequency of key terms related to the three dimensions of environmental justice (i.e., distributional, procedural, recognitional); and, 2) how these key terms, principles and goals were defined, operationalized, and assigned meaning in urban forest management practice. An ordinal logistic regression was run to determine the effect of city (or region) sociodemographic characteristics (e.g., race, income, education) on the frequency of reference made to environmental justice terms and concepts in their respective urban forest management plans. Ensuring that environmental justice principles are understood and implemented in the design and delivery of UFMPs can provide urban residents with the validation that their identities, perspectives, and interests are reflected in urban forest decision-making processes, which may translate into their greater desire to participate in the broader political process.

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