Save a tree by logging it… into the Urban Forest Map

New software tool is “like a census for trees”

April 21, 2010 — Can you save a tree by logging it?  Yes, if you “log” it into the Urban Forest Map (, a new online tool developed by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), in cooperation with Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) and the City of San Francisco, to catalogue the city’s leafy assets.

“You can add the trees around your home, office, school, or local café to the Urban Forest Map, or you can use it to learn more about the trees in your neighborhood,” said Amber Bieg, manager of the project.  “It’s like a census for trees.”

Anyone with a web browser, whether on a mobile device, laptop or desktop computer, can add information about specific trees to the Urban Forest Map, such as their location, species, size, and health.  That data can then be used by urban foresters and city planners to better manage trees in specific areas, track and combat tree pests and diseases, and plan future tree plantings.  Climatologists can use it to better understand the effects of urban forests on climates, and students can use it to learn about the role trees play in the urban ecosystem.

“Trees help keep our environment healthy by cleaning the air and reducing stormwater runoff,” said Astrid Haryati, Greening Director for the City & County of San Francisco.  “They enhance the beauty of the city for all who live and work here, and for all who visit.  The Urban Forest Map will make it easier for us to maintain and increase those benefits.”

Because the Urban Forest Map is built with open-source software, and leverages the growing power of geographic information systems (commonly known as GIS tools), it will likely have uses beyond those currently envisioned.  Technologists can “layer” the tree data with other kinds of geographic data to illuminate or reveal aspects of an area or region that might otherwise be overlooked.

San Francisco is the first city to use the Urban Forest Map; others are expected to follow. “Million Tree” campaigns are taking-off around the nation, and this tool enables the on-the-ground community information sharing vital to the success of such campaigns.

The project team will demonstrate the Urban Forest Map for the media on Wednesday, April 21 at 10 a.m. in Redwood Park at the base of the Transamerica Building, 600 Montgomery Street in San Francisco.  To underscore the user-friendly nature of the Urban Forest Map, it will be demonstrated by Benton Liang, 11, a fifth-grade student at John Yehall Chin Elementary School.

About Cal Fire

The men and women of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) are dedicated to the fire protection and stewardship of over 31 million acres of California’s privately-owned wildlands. In addition, the Department provides varied emergency services in 36 of the State’s 58 counties via contracts with local governments. CAL FIRE foresters can be found in urban areas working to increase the number of trees planted in our cities, or preventing the spread of disease by identifying and removing infected trees.

About Friends of the Urban Forest

Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) is a non-profit organization committed to the belief that trees are a critical element of a livable urban environment. Since 1981, FUF has offered financial, technical, and practical assistance to individuals and neighborhood groups who want to plant and care for trees.