A staff report submitted to Kelowna City Council yesterday provides an update on the city’s strategy for sustainable urban forests.
The city has grown and the climate has changed over the past decade, so the city is working with a consultant to develop an updated strategy that will respond to the complex challenges currently facing Kelowna’s urban forest.
“These include challenges related to development and urbanization, climate change and extreme weather (e.g. drought, extreme heat, wildfires), forest pests and diseases, tree care and forest management, and stresses on the urban ecosystem,” writes Tara Bergeson, City Council Forest Supervisor, in the report.
First drafted in 2011, the strategy set the direction for the growth and management of urban forests and provided a set of practical tools and recommendations to achieve the goals and objectives of urban forest management and management.
The report notes that the challenges facing the urban forest in 2023 are more complex.
The Kelowna urban forest is defined as the totality of trees and their growing environments found within the city limits. This includes wooded areas in both public and private ownership, cultural landscapes or completely natural areas.
“Kelowna’s urban forest offers cleaner air, shade, wildlife habitat and a variety of benefits available to all who live, work and visit here,” Bergeson said. “Urban forest, and urban greening in general, are increasingly recognized as approaches to improve the resilience of people and cities to climate change by reducing the impact of extreme events on human health, infrastructure and the environment.”
Following last year’s public engagement and technical analysis, city officials are working to develop this year’s data that will provide a detailed understanding of the urban forest.
This data will be used to inform new targets for the canopy and will allow staff to manage the challenges and understand the opportunities for the expansion of Kelowna’s urban forest.
The update’s recommendations will put the city on track to meet several of the official 2040 Community Plan goals, including improving the climate resilience of the city’s forest resources.
“Kelowna and other arid cities around the world are integrating urban forestry into urban development planning to improve ecosystem service delivery and climate resilience,” Bergeson said.
She said policy direction must be on expanding a healthy and diverse urban forest, prioritizing street trees and investing in ecosystem services and green infrastructure to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
The update proposed sub-strategies and recommendations for action for the updated strategy for sustainable urban forests. Staff will then prioritize these actions based on the city’s schedule and available resources.