Urban forest has potential to branch out

The hundreds of thousands of trees that grow in parks, yards, wild areas and through the concrete sheath that lines San Francisco’s streets may soon receive a boost of cash and care to help their canopies flourish.

More than 660,000 trees covering 12 percent of The City make up its so-called “urban forest,” according to a study published last year by the U.S. Forest Service. The City is on track to meet a goal set in 2005 by Mayor Gavin Newsom of 25,000 new trees by 2010, according to data from the Department of Public Works.

The trees are tended to by property owners, nonprofits and a raft of city government departments under a management plan adopted in 2006 by the Board of Supervisors. But that plan doesn’t provide enough funding to adequately grow the urban forest, Department of Environment Deputy Director David Assman said.

A new $200,000 management plan that’s due to be drafted by the Planning Department is expected to “come up with a funding mechanism” to help plant new trees and foster them once they’ve taken root, Assman said.

“What’s needed more than anything else is funding for both planting new trees and for making sure that the ones that are there now get proper care,” Assman said.

Kelly Quirke, executive director of San Francisco nonprofit Friends of the Urban Forest, which has helped residents and property owners plant and care for more than 40,000 trees since it was founded in the 1980s, said The City could comfortably double the 100,000 trees that currently line its streets.

Care and maintenance of street trees is critical if they’re to prosper in San Francisco’s harsh urban environment, Quirke said. Wind, vandalism, ill-parking motorists and oversize trucks take a severe toll on The City’s arboreal world, he said.

“If you walk around The City with your antenna out, you’ll see a lot of trees in distress, especially when they’re younger,” Quirke said.

The budget for tree maintenance of the Public Works, which is responsible for about two-fifths of The City’s street trees, was increased from $1.7 million to

$2.5 million this year to improve maintenance, according to spokeswoman Christine Falvey.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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