Santa Monica Pilots Innovative Urban Forest Monitoring Program

Santa Monica, CA (March 12, 2014) – Santa Monica’s municipal forestry program is applying the “enterprise” version of the Tree Carbon Calculator to plan and quantify it’s tree planting carbon project. Like many cities, Santa Monica has a tree maintenance program, but now they are piloting one of the most sophisticated urban forest monitoring programs in California.

Santa Monica Urban-plantingIt’s all in an effort to reduce long-term program costs, increase the benefits the city gets from each tree it plants, and track carbon pollution reductions associated with the city forest.

“This isn’t about blindly planting thousands and thousands of trees, it’s about creating a program and making sure these trees stay healthy and can maximize their environmental benefits,” says Erin Hamant of the City of Santa Monica.

In conjunction with Greg McPherson and others at the U.S. Forest Service, Hamant has lists of pre-identified native and non-native trees that grow best in the Santa Monica area. Additionally, Santa Monica is in the process of piloting a state-of-the-art tree inventory and maintenance work order enterprise system to know where all public trees are located.

The enterprise system will allow the city to track work orders for tree planting, tree removal, watering, and pruning, and to develop reports that investigate the health, age, and environmental benefits, helping to maximize urban forest planning.

Much of this effort is a response to California’s AB 32 law. Guided by a grant from the Air Quality Management District and the provisions in the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Urban Forest Project Protocol, Santa Monica planted over 1,000 trees across the city in 2011 and 2012 in an effort to get carbon credits. To meet the state’s high standards, the city had to develop a way to account for the carbon stored in its urban forest, and prove overall urban forest funds to maintain a baseline number of healthy trees, on top of tracking net tree gain.

“One of the major benefits of developing these carbon credits is that we are also developing a program to manage all of our trees better and more cost effectively.” said Hamant. “We likely wouldn’t have attempted our Urban Forest GHG project if AB 32 didn’t allow us to participate in California’s Cap-and-Trade Program through counting the carbon sequestered by public trees.”

Read the complete article: “A Sustainable Urban Forest Takes Root in Santa Monica,” EDF’s Innovator’s Series