By Ian Leahy, Director of Urban Forest Programs

One of the most dynamic aspects of the new hub of urban forestry expertise, Vibrant Cities Lab, might not be readily apparent to those who haven’t explored the site’s many nooks and crannies: the Community Assessment and Goal-Setting Tool.

The tool walks users through each criterion, providing a point-based system for self-assessing where their own community stands. For example, if your town or city has no urban tree canopy assessment, you select negative one point for that question. Lacking such data is not only not helping your cause, it is actively working against you. Likewise, if you have conducted a low-resolution assessment using a free tool like i-Tree, give yourself two points. Investing in a high-resolution assessment with clear implementation goals is worth three points. And if that assessment is being actively used rather than sitting on a shelf collecting dust, then you can give yourself the maximum four points.

We designed the Community Assessment and Goal-Setting Tool so you control the information. We want city foresters and managers to be comfortable using the tool to make strategic decisions about where to prioritize funding and technical expertise without being held publicly accountable for how their city might match up to comparable cities. American Forests also worked closely with the Arbor Day Foundation and other urban forestry partners to ensure the criteria aligned with their work.

Vibrant Cities Lab is a free product of American Forests, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of Regional Councils that launched in late 2017. It is a platform to deliver urban forestry expertise to the decision-makers who most impact tree canopy. New content can be submitted through the contact form for consideration by an advisory board’s review process.