January 24th, 2012 by

We’d like to introduce a new member of the American Forests team and our newest blogger, Melinda Housholder. Moving forward, Melinda will be joining us every third Tuesday to share information specifically on urban forests, aka forests and trees in cities and towns. ~K&M

I am excited to have joined American Forests as the Urban Forests Program Manager. For as long as I can remember, I have had a connection to trees, forests and nature. Growing up in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee, I was exposed to lots of great music, tasty southern cooking and wonderful urban parks.

Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee

Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee. Credit: Zepfanman.com/Flickr

While Tennessee might be home to the Smoky Mountains and lots of open space, Nashville is a busy city with the traffic and chaos of many metropolitan areas. Yet, spending time outdoors, whether it was hiking in one of the local urban parks, reading under the large oak trees in my backyard or enjoying a summer canoe ride down the shaded Harpeth River, was a huge part of my childhood. Without the trees and forest ecosystem throughout the city, much of my childhood would have seemed different. As a small child, I remember crawling through hollow logs in the parks with my sisters and swinging on the large vines that crossed the path. As an art student in high school, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the unique interplay of textures, colors and shapes that came together as I walked down a trail surrounded by trees and vegetation. In fact, my AP Art concentration was based on just that — pathways — often inspired by trees and nature, and what I now refer to as “urban forests.”

So, what exactly are urban forests and why are they important? American Forests defines urban forests as “ecosystems composed of trees and other vegetation that provide cities and municipalities with environmental, economic and social benefits. They include street and yard trees; vegetation within parks and along public right of ways; water systems and fish and wildlife.” As an integral part of our urban ecosystem, urban forests help clean the water and air, reduce urban costs, improve the well-being of the population and enhance wildlife habitat and biodiversity.

In my monthly urban forest blog, I look forward to telling you more about these benefits, as well as the challenges facing urban forests, and what we are doing at American Forests to help protect and restore them. Please stay tuned for my February post to learn more. In the meantime, I would like to ask, “What does the phrase ‘urban forests’ mean to you?”