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The Urban Forest

What is the Urban Forest?

There are numerous things we encounter in our busy lives that we typically take for granted: Family, friends, health, housing, food on our table, amongst others. All are very important and often under-appreciated until faced with a crisis. WhenImage of Trees people think of life’s essentials, very few would name the urban forest.

While many people think of street trees when thinking of the urban forest, it is much more than that. If you took a look at an urban area such as Auburn from the air you would see a stunning network of green.

The urban forest is all of the trees and other vegetation in and around a community including trees in home landscapes, school yards, parks, riverbanks, cemeteries, vacant lots, utility rights-of-way, adjacent woodlands and anywhere else trees can grow. Shrubs, flowers, vines, ground covers, grass, and a variety of wild plants and animals also are part of the urban forest. Streets, sidewalks, buildings, utilities, soil, topography and, most importantly, people are also an integral part of the urban forest. The urban forest is, in fact, an ecosystem.

A healthy urban forest is seen as essential to the quality of life of the region. It is an asset that increases in value over time- one that provides service as well as beauty to Placer County residents. Some of the benefits of the urban forest can be measured. The energy saved from decreased heating and cooling costs, the water kept out of treatment plants and the benefits of cleaner air can be quantified. It is estimated that one large residential tree produces $4,000 of net economic benefit over its first fifty years and increases residential resale value by six to nine percent.

Other benefits are less easily measured, but no less valuable. The aesthetic value of the thousands of trees in an urban forest is incalculable. Neighborhoods with trees feel warm and inviting. Trees soften the hard line of cement sidewalks and provide shade for parking lots and protection from wind. Through their spectacular variety of Image of Treeshapes, sizes, colors, flowers and shade patterns, trees also add visual interest.

Quietly, in exchange for a few gallons of water a week, they help mitigate the noise of traffic, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and trap dust particulates on their leaf surfaces. We use the urban forest for recreation and in turn, it provides habitat for our urban wildlife.

Yet, as important as the urban forest is, it is increasingly at risk. When does the urban forest move from unrecognized and under-appreciated to valued? It’s when the oak woodland you’ve taken for granted near your home is bulldozed to make way for a subdivision of new homes. It’s when fifty-year old trees that you’ve driven by daily are removed to increase a business’ visibility. It’s when your shaded patio becomes sun-baked after disease kills your backyard tree. Or when a nearby hillside starts eroding after the property owner removed the trees.

In the rush to make our communities modern marvels we've fine-tuned nature out of the design process. Rapid land development and unnecessary tree cutting is severely impacting community forest resources that are already weakened by aging, fire, storms and humans.

Management of the urban forest is complex and challenging. A new awareness of urban communities as ecosystems can be achieved through education and community involvement. An initial step is a re-examination of the natural and manmade infrastructure that make up our communities, the ways they interact, and how the urban forest fits in. Only then will we be able to manage our resources in a socially desirable, ecologically and economically possible way, so they can sustain our community for future generations.

Online Resources:

International Society of Arborculture

Why Are Native Trees Important?

Image of Native Trees

Protecting and planting native trees is important to preserve the unique landscape appearance that helps give Placer County its unique character. Regional character is increasingly threatened by the trend to make neighborhoods and commercial centers to similar that we cannot tell one city from another. By preserving regional landscape character, we can help offset this homogenization. Our sense of identity and belonging is enriched through our association with these unique places that we claim as our own.

Trees that are native to a locale are very well adapted to the naturally occurring site conditions. This adaption can result in lower maintenance costs and eliminate the need for supplemental irrigation, specialized fertilizers, herbicides, soil amendments, or protection from wind, sun and cold. Native trees are linked to the well-being of the insects, birds, and wildlife species that naturally occur in an area. Over many generations of living in proximity to these native trees, some of these animal species have evolved to rely on the trees and the associated understory plants, such as shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers, to meet their specialized food, shelter, and breeding needs.

Oaks can prosper in close proximity to human habitation if care is taken to preserve the basic elements of the natural oak environment. If the needs and limitations of mature oaks are not considered, well-meaning people can make serious mistakes.

For additional information:

Choosing the Right Tree

Oak Tree Care, California Oak Foundation

Protecting Trees

Construction activities can cause serious damage and even death to trees if proper measures are not used to protect trees. Injuries to trees are not always obvious, and the decline of the tree may not be evident for months or years after the construction activities are complete. When such conditions do become evident, it is often too late to correct the damage, and tree loss or tree hazards may result.

Preventing damage to trees during construction is not difficult or expensive. In fact, taking protective measures will probably cost less than replacing or treating a damaged tree.

For additional information, see the: "Protecting Trees During Construction" brochure.

Image of Protecting Trees During Construction

Vehicles, soil, construction debris or material should not
be placed within the Critical Root Zone, even temporarily.

Choosing the Right Tree

The decision about what type of tree to plant is an important one. Most trees will outlive the people who plant them, and trees can require a steady investment of time and expense over their lifespan.

When choosing a tree, several essential steps will help you select the proper tree. Considering site conditions and constraints, the appropriate maintenance needs for the tree, and your overall expectations for the tree will help you make the right choice. Taking these steps will help focus your search to a list of candidate trees that will grow successfully on your property and meet your needs.

For additional information: Choosing the Right TreeImage of  leaves

Questions you might ask when buying a tree:

  • Does the tree need full sun, partial shade, or complete shade?
  • Will the tree withstand cold and hot weather?
  • Is the tree especially susceptible to diseases or to damage by insects?
  • Deciduous or evergreen?
  • Does it need a dry area or a wet area?
  • How big will the tree grow and how fast? (Most Important!)
  • Should it be planted close to a building or to other trees, or does it need open space?
  • Can I plant flowers under the tree? (No!)
  • Does it need special care the first few years?
  • Will it produce nuts, fruit, cones, or colorful leaves or flowers that I can use?
  • Will it give good shade in summer and winter?
  • Is the tree more smog resistant than other trees?
  • How far should I plant it from a sewer or drain line, sidewalk or driveway?
  • Can it serve as a windbreak, noise barrier, or visual screen?
  • Will it encourage wildlife and birds to live in the area?
  • Will it drop many seeds in the area, causing a crop of sprouts come Spring?
  • Is it noted for shedding leaves year round?
  • Will it fit in well with the area’s landscaping?
  • Is it a fire-adapted plant?
  • How sensitive is it to fire?

Tree Planting Care

Trees beautify our surroundings, increase property values, and help save energy. Trees add value to your home, help cool your home and neighborhood, break the cold winds to lower your heating costs, and provide food for wildlife. But proper tree care is essential.Image of Tree Planing Care

Young Tree Care

Every new tree is planted with the hope that is will grow strong and healthy, providing benefits to the community and environment for many years. Proper care is important throughout a tree’s entire life, especially during the first three to five years. The care and attention during those critical early years will give the tree its best chance for reaching maturity and thriving.

Before planting any young tree, you should take into account a number of important factors:

  • Selection
  • Water
  • Monitoring
  • Planting
  • Mulch
  • Pruning
  • Fertilizer

For additional information: "Young Tree Care" brochure

Mature Tree Care

To continue to enjoy the benefits of trees, we need to preserve and care for them to keep them healthy. Properly caring for mature trees is critical because they are valuable resources that cannot be readily replaced if they are lost to disease or damage. Most tree species take many years to reach maturity and must survive numerous threats to their health during development.

Find out what your mature tree needs and why: "Mature Tree Care" brochure


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Image of Auburn Trail of Treasured Trees

Auburn Trail of Treasured Trees

The Auburn Trail of Treasured Trees is a self-guided walking tour through Old Town and downtown Auburn’s urban forest featuring approximately 50 trees - treasured trees and other trees of interest. The tour encompasses Lincoln Way, High Street, College Way, Maple Street and Court Street. The tree tour starts at the deodar cedar near the new restroom facility in Old Town Auburn and is free to the public. Sidewalk markers have been painted and each tree on the walk has been tagged with an engraved medallion.

Downloadable Map and Guide