Credit: Shawn McMahon

Using cabling to improperly support branches led to the girdling and eventual death of this tree.

After completing the tree inventory and before drawing up the ordinance, call neighborhood or town meetings to get public input. Once the tree ordinance is in place, the public should be kept informed of regulations. While non-compliance may produce revenue in fines, it also compromises the program's intended benefits.

One effective way of reaching the target audience of private landowners is to distribute a brochure or leaflet with property tax receipts. With cooperation from local public utility companies, informational materials can be mailed monthly with gas and electrical bills. Collaboration with realtors is another strategy, particularly if the goal of the tree ordinance is aesthetic. Realtors can encourage clients to invest in landscaping to increase property values.

A supportive public also can help monitor the success of your program. Kick off the program with a public relations campaign. Arbor Day (see for the date in your area) or Earth Day (April 22) can provide a good news hook for local media. Once the program has been in place a while, conduct surveys to obtain feedback. Dedicated citizens also can keep an eye out for potentially hazardous tree conditions.

Even with support from the community and educational institutions, launching an urban forestry program will incur costs. Before drawing on the tax base, determine if your community qualifies for a federal grant from the Urban and Community Forestry Program ( or the National Urban Community and Forestry Advisory Council (

Many state forestry divisions also award Urban and Community Forestry grants. The International Society of Arboriculture ( provides benchmarking information on communities with successful programs, including financial indicators that will help convince the public of the value of investing in a program.

— Shawn McMahon, certified arborist, is a senior project manager with Environmental Services Inc., Jacksonville, Fla.

Tree City USA

Tree City USA signs at the entrance to a community tell visitors that the city or town cares about its environment. To qualify, a municipality must meet the four standards established by The National Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. These standards ensure that every qualifying community, regardless of size, has a viable tree management plan and program.

To achieve Tree City USA status, a town or city must establish the following:

  • A tree board or department
  • A tree care ordinance
  • A community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita
  • An Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
  • For additional information visit