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Aldermen Introduce Ordinance to Establish an Urban Forestry Advisory Board

After many years of collaboration with the Openlands Chicago environmental organization, Aldermen Scott Waguespack, together with Council co-sponsors Cardenas and Nugent, introduced the Urban Forestry Advisory Board (UFAB) Ordinance, which would establish a board of experts and policymakers to guide the City’s urban tree management policies. Although the ordinance was thrown a roadblock by an alderman to prevent it from being discussed in committee, it will be moving to the Finance Committee for consideration at the earliest possible date.

Through this ordinance, the City Council takes a long overdue step toward honoring Chicago’s motto: Urbs in Horto or, City in a Garden. As the City works to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that the City address all aspects of a recovery. The UFAB is one piece of a broader strategy to improve public health; create safer, more liveable neighborhoods; address heat islands; and combat the sweeping effects of climate change.

“For years, the City has struggled to adhere to a coherent management plan for our urban forest. We maintain an inefficient tree-trimming system, lose trees due to disease and opaque removal processes, and reinforce long-standing inequities in the delivery of City services,” said Alderman Waguespack. “The UFAB will convene policymakers from across agencies and experts in the field to collaborate on these and other pressing urban forestry issues, especially in the absence of a Department of Environment.”

“Our environmental policy must prioritize communities like the ones I represent on the Southwest Side. The UFAB will provide the City with new opportunities to create comprehensive policies to improve the health and quality of life for Black and Brown communities across all of Chicago,” said Alderman Cardenas.

Alderman Nugent adds, “We have long needed a common-sense plan on how to preserve and enhance our urban forest and the UFAB will provide consistency and guidance on how we achieve this goal. A greener, healthier, safer “City in a Garden” is something that will benefit all Chicagoans.”

“With guidance and oversight from the UFAB, Chicago can better maintain and expand its urban forest, which helps to reduce flooding and to slow the effects of climate change,” said Daniella Pereira, Openlands Vice President of Community Conservation.

The UFAB will have five main powers and responsibilities:

  1. Develop and regularly update an Urban Forestry Management Plan

  2. Assess City policies, procedures, and expenditures 

  3. Recommend legislation 

  4. Facilitate public education 

  5. Establish a Heritage Tree Program that identifies trees of significance

In 2019, the City Inspector General highlighted that the City could save up to 60 percent on the average cost per tree trim. Under current budgetary constraints, the City must find innovative money-saving paths toward long-term sustainability. The UFAB provides a forum for the cross-departmental and community-informed policymaking necessary to achieve that goal. Additionally, a healthy urban forest helps create healthy communities. Communities on the South and West sides often suffer disproportionately from the effects of pollution and a dearth of greenspace. The UFAB will help the City remedy these longstanding inequities.

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