April 19, 2023
In fall 2022, the City of Boston released its 20-Year Urban Forest Plan (UFP), which analyzed urban tree canopy on both private and publicly owned land in Boston and laid out a series of recommendations for the conservation and expansion of tree canopy over the next two decades. Since the UFP was released last fall, Boston City Council and the City Environment Department have been exploring opportunities to implement its recommendations, from staffing up the new Urban Forestry Division to encouraging equitable workforce development in urban forestry through Powercorps Boston. One of the key developments regarding the possible establishment of a tree protection ordinance through Boston City Council could affect both private and public trees throughout the city and would help to protect urban tree canopy and provide community relief and resilience in the face of extreme heat.
Before the Urban Forest Plan was released in 2022, City Councilors Arroyo and Braedon attempted to move a tree protection ordinance through City Council without success. In January 2023, with new evidence from the UFP and backing from fellow councilors, Boston City Councilors Arroyo and Braedon filed the 2023 Ordinance Establishing Protections for the City of Boston Tree Canopy, with the support of Councilors Lara, Bok, Coletta, Fernandes Anderson, Flaherty, Louijeune, Mejia, Murphy, Worrell, and Flynn. The 2023 tree protection ordinance draft does the following:
Although the initial draft tree protection ordinance applies to both private and public trees in Boston, at a March 2023 City Council hearing in front of the Government Operations Committee, Reverend-Chief Mariama White-Hammond and her staff suggested bifurcating the ordinance moving forward so that publicly owned trees will be dealt with first, to be followed by a separate ordinance applying to privately owned trees. As A Better City members and colleagues affirmed in a Developer Focus Group for the UFP in spring of 2022, and as was discussed at the March 2023 City Council hearing—any tree protection ordinance applying to privately owned land will need to work in partnership with developers, private landowners, and local communities to be successful and to avoid unintended consequences.
A Better City will continue to track the progress of the draft tree protection ordinance and intends to host a working session with relevant City Councilors and Urban Forestry Division staff once an updated draft becomes available; in particular, ABC will be engaging members on possible amendments to the tree protection ordinance components applicable to privately owned land. Please contact Isabella Gambill for more information on Boston’s potential tree protection ordinance.