Urban Forest Management Policies & Codes in Charlotte, NC
The Challenge. The City of Charlotte has one of the most expansive tree canopies in the country (45% tree canopy cover). This natural resource provides many tangible and intangible benefits to citizens that are currently valued to be more than $335 million every year. However, the region is losing its iconic tree canopy due to rapid population growth, land development, an aging tree canopy, and climate change.
The Opportunity. During the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan creation, the citizens made it clear that a companion action plan was needed to sustain the city’s tree canopy while simultaneously addressing modern and costly urban challenges like stormwater management, urban heat island effects, public health issues, economic development, and environmental equity.
The Project. The City of Charlotte embarked on a “Tree Canopy Action Plan” (TCAP) project in 2020 and was supported by the public engagement and municipal urban forest management expertise of Urban Canopy Works. TCAP was a citywide effort to define the vision, policies, and legal framework for trees in the places where citizens live, work and play.
The project relied on extensive community and stakeholder input from industry leaders, city staff, and nonprofits to inform the development of policy and regulatory recommendations. It also based the recommendations on scientific and demographic data, and standards and best management practices for municipal operations and urban tree management.
UCW guided the City and stakeholders through the process which resulted in making recommendations for:
New or revised urban forest management policies;
Concepts to improve and unify the tree ordinance and other city codes;
Supportive management and operations processes and resources needed to enact the Plan, and;
Goals and Place Type descriptions to support the future growth of the City envisioned by the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
The TCAP process was a creative, inclusive, thorough, and thoughtful approach to finding a sustainable way to allow the city to grow, serve the best interest of the citizens, provide long-term benefit for all of Charlotte's neighborhoods, and simultaneously maintain its valuable tree canopy.