Urban Forest Justice and the Rights to Wild Foods, Medicines, and Materials in the City

By Melissa R. Poe, Rebecca J. McClain, Marla Emery, and Patrick Hurley

Seattle, WA (July 16, 2013) – Urban forests are multifunctional socio-ecological landscapes, yet some of their social benefits remain poorly understood. This paper draws on ethnographic evidence from Seattle, Washington to demonstrate that urban forests contain nontimber forest products that contribute a variety of wild foods, medicines, and materials for the wellbeing of urban residents.

Researchers show that gathering wild plants and fungi in urban forests is a persistent subsistence and livelihood practice that provides sociocultural and material benefits to city residents, and creates opportunities for connecting with nature and enhancing social ties. It suggests that an orientation toward human-nature interactions in cities that conceptualizes the gathering of forest products as a legitimate social benefit may support and expand urban forest justice.

Urban forest justice recognizes the rights of local people to have control over their own culturally appropriate wild food and health systems, including access to natural resources and to the decision-making processes affecting them.

Urban forest justice and the rights to wild foods, medicines, and materials in the city
Urban foraging: an “intimate connection” with nature in the city