Earth Day 2010 San Francisco: Mapping the Trees

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 22, 2010 (ENS) – To mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom Wednesday introduced a new online tool for mapping the city’s trees.

The Urban Forest Map was developed by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Cal Fire, in cooperation with Friends of the Urban Forest and the City of San Francisco in order to better manage the city’s environment.

Anyone with a web browser, whether on a mobile device, laptop or desktop computer, can add information about specific trees to the Urban Forest Map, such as their location, species, size, and health.

“Trees help keep our environment healthy by cleaning the air and reducing stormwater runoff,” said Mayor Newsom. “The Urban Forest Map will make it easier for the city to maintain trees by engaging our tech-savvy citizens to enhance the beauty of San Francisco for all who live, work and visit here.”

“You can add the trees around your home, office, school, or local cafe to the Urban Forest Map, or you can use it to learn more about the trees in your neighborhood,” said Amber Bieg, manager of the project. “It’s like a census for trees.”

Palm trees frame a heart sculpture in San Francisco’s Union Square. (Photo by Agnieszka C.)

The data can be used by urban foresters and city planners to better manage trees in specific areas, track and combat tree pests and diseases, and plan future tree plantings. Climatologists can use the information to better understand the effects of urban forests on climates, and students can use it to learn about the role trees play in the urban ecosystem.

Because the Urban Forest Map is built with open-source software, and leverages the growing power of geographic information systems, GIS, it will have a growing number of uses.

Bieg says technologists can “layer” the tree data with other kinds of geographic data to illuminate or reveal aspects of an area or region that might otherwise be overlooked.

San Francisco is the first city to use the Urban Forest Map; Mayor Newsom said other cities are expected to follow.

Million Tree campaigns are taking off around the nation, and this tool enables the community information sharing vital to the success of such campaigns.

Earlier this year, Mayor Newsom announced the nation’s first open source software policy for city government, and in 2009 the mayor issued an Open Data Executive Directive requiring city departments to make all nonconfidential datasets under their authority available on DataSF.org, the city’s one stop web site for government data.

The initial phase of DataSF includes more than 150 datasets, from a range of city departments, including Police, Public Works, and the Municipal Transportation Agency.

More than 30 software applications have been created from the city’s data and are featured in the DataSF App Showcase. This includes EcoFinder, an iPhone app that helps residents recycle, and Routesy, an app that helps people find their way around the Bay Area’s transit systems.

The Open Source and Open Data policy are part of a larger Open Gov Initiative for the City and County of San Francisco to engage constituents, focused on open data, open participation and open source.

The Urban Forest Map project team demonstrated the new tree software tool for the media on Wednesday.

To showcase the user-friendly nature of the Urban Forest Map, it was demonstrated by Benton Liang, 11, a fifth-grade student at John Yehall Chin Elementary School, using an Apple iPad.

An Urban Forest Map launch celebration will be held today from 6-9 pm at 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna Street in San Francisco.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.