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Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis (UFIA)

The Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis (UFIA) program in Wisconsin is a partnership between the USDA Forest Service and the Wisconsin DNR to inventory trees in urban settings by establishing 1,300 plots across the state.

The primary purpose of this effort is to collect and report on the condition of Wisconsin's urban forests in a statistically sound manner on an annual and periodic basis. The information will be used to track the status and trends in urban forest canopy, extent, diversity, growth, mortality, habitat and overall health. This data will also be used to identify and track the environmental, economic and social benefits and services provided.

A forester standing in front of an ash tree planted in an urban area.
A forester tallies an ash tree located within a UFIA plot.

Seventy-five field plots were established in 2015 in the Madison and Milwaukee metro areas, marking the formal beginning of the UFIA program in the state. The program was then expanded in 2016 to sample urban forests throughout Wisconsin. Over seven years, around 1,300 field plots will be established in urban areas of the state [PDF] , with the first cycle in Milwaukee and Madison to be completed in 2021, with the rest of the state following in 2022. Each of the sites will then be revisited every seven years, enabling the assessment of change over time.

Additional information can be found in an FAQ document [PDF], which is particularly valuable for landowners whose permission for land access has been requested.

National effort

Since 1930, the Forest Service has been surveying, analyzing and reporting on the health and productivity of America's forests, including those in Wisconsin. Known as Forest Inventory and Analysis [exit DNR], this Forest Service program works in partnership with the nation's state forestry agencies, universities and nongovernmental organizations to serve as the nation's and the state's forest census.

Urban forests were not covered by an inventory and monitoring system like rural forests, despite the benefits of urban forests and the need to know more about them. An initiative in the federal 2014 Farm Bill called for an expansion of the FIA program to include sampling of the nation's urban forests. With experience gained from past urban pilot studies, FIA teamed up with i-Tree [exit DNR] to implement an annualized inventory of trees in urban settings.

The Forest Service is initially focused on major metropolitan areas. However, some states like Wisconsin have chosen to sample data across all urban areas, not just their largest ones.  Learn more about the national efforts on the FIA site [exit DNR].

Wisconsin Urban Landowner Survey

A complementary project to UFIA is the Wisconsin Urban Landowner Survey. Because over 70% of Wisconsin’s residents live in urban areas (covering 2.56 million acres of land and containing an estimated 42 million trees), and most of these trees grow in residential spaces, it is important to assess landowners’ interest in local trees.

In 2017, a team of state and national entities sent 6,000 surveys to private residential landowners in the Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee and Wausau urban area. Recipients included apartment and condo owners, single-family homeowners and multi-family housing unit owners.

More than 1,700 landowners responded to the survey, primarily single-family homeowners, providing insights about their attitudes toward tree care, concerns about tree risks and their tree management choices such as pruning and planting.

In addition to piloting an urban form of the long-running National Woodland Owner Survey (NWOS) [exit DNR] with the Forest Service, the Wisconsin survey is providing valuable insights for Wisconsin’s urban communities. Urban forestry programs and community tree care groups will be able to use information from the survey to better understand the perspectives and needs of urban homeowners so as to help them take steps to be active stewards of their trees.

Read the full report, Communicating More Effectively about Urban Forestry [exit DNR].