Pittsburgh selected to participate in Reforestation Hubs initiative
January 12, 2021
The City of Pittsburgh has been selected by Cambium Carbon in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation as one of four cities nationally to receive a "Reforestation Hub" assessment, which includes the development of a pilot project geared toward improving resource efficiency and carbon capture at the municipal level with the Department of City Planning Office of Sustainability & Resilience, Department of Public Works Forestry Division, and community partners.
These projects will lay the groundwork for a circular urban forestry system that will include urban wood reuse and carbon credits to finance healthy forests, restoration of public lands, and the recovery and expansion of the tree canopy.
Despite the positive impacts urban forests have in combating climate change and providing community benefits, American cities lose an average 36 million trees each year due to factors such as disease, age, and development, which results in economic losses up to $786 million annually. The City of Pittsburgh's tree canopy coverage is currently estimated at 36 percent, after a loss of 6.2 percent of tree canopy between 2010 and 2015.
Contributors to local canopy loss in the city include development pressure; pests, invasive species, and disease; and lack of maintenance, capacity, and funding. Reforestation Hubs aim to close the loop on urban wood waste by finding ways to upcycle removed trees to their highest use while generating new revenues to support tree planting and maintenance.
"City governments need to find new sources of funding to recover from the pandemic and providing healthy, accessible outdoor open spaces has proven critically important for the health of our residents over the last nine months," said Mayor William Peduto. "The City of Pittsburgh is very excited for this timely opportunity to explore new methods of ecological and financial resilience that seek to enhance our tree canopy and greenspaces to improve resident well-being."
The city's work with Cambium Carbon will explore two new revenue sources for forest maintenance: first, finding a pathway for wood reuse from fallen city trees and handling wood debris in-house. Additionally, the project will assess the sale of carbon credits as a means of subsidizing restoration of public lands, with particular focus on the greenways system.
The intention is to use these new financing mechanisms and efficiencies to properly resource the Department of Public Works' Forestry Division and nonprofit partners to increase tree canopy and improve the health of Pittsburgh's unmanaged greenways and urban forest.
Much of the City of Pittsburgh's green space was consolidated into the Greenways for Pittsburgh program in the 1980s. Greenways comprise 1,200 acres across 13 sites throughout city neighborhoods and have faced significant neglect over time. The city's Climate Action Plan 3.0 calls for increases in tree canopy coverage and carbon sequestration, as well as for unmanaged open space to be properly valued for its ecosystem services and not looked at as a loss of tax revenue. As the weather becomes wetter, hotter, and more unpredictable in Pittsburgh, our urban ecosystems need to be valued as a first line of defence against the changing climate.
"Pittsburgh's tree canopy and urban forests provide many benefits, but resources are needed to make all of our greenspaces the community assets they should be," said Lisa Ceoffe, city forester. "Optimizing the health of some of our unmanaged public properties and increasing tree canopy will create more opportunities for recreation, improve stormwater management, provide shade and cooling in summer months, stabilize our hillsides, sequester carbon and air pollution, and deter dumping."
Pittsburgh will be joining Denver, Colorado, Eugene, Oregon and New York City, New York in the Reforestation Hubs programs. These cities' projects will build off of the work of innovative peer cities, including that of The Baltimore Wood Project and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.
"These pilots are step one in building a circular economy for urban forestry," said Marisa Repka, co-founder and City Partnerships Lead at Cambium Carbon. "We're excited to work with our city partners to make the case for infrastructure and policy that will improve resource efficiency, create new jobs, and foster community resilience."
In addition, Cambium Carbon will be launching a Reforestation Hubs Peer Working Group to share learnings, resources, and opportunities. To join or learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.