Identifying Impediments to Completing an Urban Forest Canopy Assessment in Municipalities in the State of Virginia
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Tree canopy assessments help identify the extent and location of urban forest resources under management. Tree canopy assessments give a picture of what the urban forest resource looks like presently; and can be used to establish and track management goals for a municipality and quantify benefits being provided by the urban forest. Such an assessment can also help guide the most effective distribution of labor and resources. However, many municipalities in Virginia do not have canopy assessments and are unable to realize these benefits. To assess what impediments urban forestry professionals of small municipalities in Virginia are facing, we conducted a focus group meeting of experienced urban foresters via teleconference. Participants were asked about their perceptions and knowledge of tree canopy assessments. Participants had general knowledge of the benefits of an assessment, but generally lacked, or had varying degrees of knowledge of the methodologies for conducting an assessment. Participants expressed concerns on topics such as funding an assessment; communicating the value of an assessment to decision makers and citizens; and the use of volunteers in gathering information for a tree canopy assessment. Specific suggestions generated by the focus group to overcome perceived or real impediments were a website resource for urban forestry professionals co-sponsored by Virginia Tech and the Virginia Department of Forestry and coordinated support for the Tree Stewards Program at the state level to improve success using volunteers for urban forest assessment. In addition, participants agreed that a survey of urban forest decision makers from municipalities across the state would help Virginia Tech and the Virginia Department of Forestry better target outreach programs to meet municipal needs in urban forest canopy assessment.