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Urban and community forestry

Columbia skyline from river
An urban forest is a collection of trees that grow within a city, town or suburb. Care and management of urban forests is called urban forestry.

What are urban and community forests?

Gervais Bridge Columbia
Gervais Street Bridge leads to downtown Columbia.

Trees growing in cities and towns, collectively, encompass “urban and community forests.”  Urban and community trees are essential components of community infrastructure that provide a multitude of benefits to improve the local environment, economy and human health and well-being.
Management of healthy, sustainable, community forests involves careful planning, protection, selection, and proper planting and maintenance.  Healthy urban forests maximize community benefits and improve quality of life in communities.
Urban forest cover in the United States is consistently declining at devastating rate of about 175,000 acres per year (36 million trees), as impervious surfaces, such as buildings, roads, sidewalks, parking lots and driveways, dramatically increase with the progression of  urbanization. 
To improve the health and sustainability of urban and community forests, communities must recognize the tremendous importance of urban trees and green infrastructure and improve the management of these assets through effective planning and more proactive approaches that focus on tree preservation during development, higher standards of care in maintenance and more aggressive canopy replacement planning to balance tree loss attributed to clearing for development, aging and insect and disease attack.

What we do

Main Street Columbia trees
Downtown Columbia

We provide technical and/or educational assistance regarding community forest inventories and management plans, community and county tree ordinances, grant project implementation, how to become a Tree City USA, proper tree selection, installation and care, educational information, training workshops and promotion of South Carolina’s Arbor Day, which is always the first Friday in December. The program’s goal is to help foster, support and enhance long-term, sustainable, urban and community forestry programs within communities. We provide technical, educational and financial assistance, primarily to cities, towns, non-profit organizations, and county governments.

Tree selection, planting and care

The SCFC Urban Forestry team offers a wealth of knowledge on tree selection, planting and care; tips for selecting a tree care professional (arborist); ways to protect and preserve trees on construction sites; storm recovery; and SC firesmart plants. Please visit our Urban Tree Care Resources page for more on each of these topics.

Finlay Park, Columbia

Benefits of urban trees

Did you know that trees in the urban landscape improve our quality of life in countless ways? In addition to adding sheer aesthetic beauty to the ‘concrete jungle,’ trees can improve our personal health, reduce air and noise pollution, save energy, conserve water, reduce soil erosion and create wildlife and plant diversity, among many others.
Read more about these myriad benefits that trees provide in our urban environments, in which more than 80 percent of the American population now lives.

Trees and People Need Each Other

Healthy Trees Healthy Lives for Kids (YouTube video)

Healthy Trees Healthy Lives for Adults (YouTube video)

Community recognition programs that SCFC administers

The Arbor Day Foundation operates several national recognition programs that are administered at the state level. In South Carolina, the Urban & Community Forestry program oversees the application and award process by providing information and assistance to applicants, reviewing and approving applications, submitting successful applications to ADF for final review, and distributing award materials from ADF.

Recognition Program FAQs

Resources for communities


Resources for Tree Ordinances

Resource for Requests for Bids

Sample requests for bids (Tree Inventory, Canopy Mapping or Management Plan) (word)

Sample request for proposal: Tree Risk Assessment (word)

Examples of Urban Forestry Management Plans

Charlotte, NC (link)

Decatur, GA (link)

‘Green Infrastructure’ projects and resources

‘Trees to Offset Stormwater’ projects and resources

Community Forestry Webinars

Other Educational Opportunities

The links below are just a few of the websites that offer workshops/conferences and webinars that award ISA-certified arborist continuing education credits. The links provided may not include current opportunities, but should be checked periodically for new events. Applicants are encouraged to visit other websites and familiarize themselves with the guidance sheet to determine if an event qualifies for a scholarship. 

July 29-31, 2024
Prisma Health Welcome Center at Unity Park 111 Welborn St.  Greenville, SC 29601 Please read the “ISA TRAQ Application Guide” for full course prerequisites, renewal requirements, details about the credential and the course. Applicants must register 30 days prior to the session. Registration will close on June 29 or when class capacity is reached (20 students). Additional information can be found on the ISA Southern Chapter website at https://www.isasouthern.org/traq-events 
Register HERE for July 29-31 TRAQ Course

September 4-5, 2024; 9:00am-4:00pm Eastern
Harbison State Forest Environmental Education Center, 5600 Broad River Road Columbia, SC 29210
Instructor: Jimmy Walters ISA Southern Chapter and the South Carolina Forestry Commission will host a 2-day review course for arborists wanting to prepare for the certified arborist exam or just want a thorough review. Lunch is provided each day. Note that an exam is scheduled for Friday, September 6th at this location. Registering for the prep course does not include registration for the exam. See the info for the exam listed below for September 6th. Information and registration for the prep course is available HERE.

September 6, 2024; 8:30am-Noon Eastern
Harbison State Forest Environmental Education Center 5600, Broad River Road Columbia, SC 29210
ISA Certified Arborist, Utility Arborist, and Municipal Specialist written exams are scheduled for Friday, September 6, 2024. Applicants for each exam must register by August 21, 2024 at the ISA website. If you’re new to ISA, you’ll need to create an ISA profile at creating or logging in to your ISA account. Registering for an exam includes 2 steps. First, you must complete an application for your selected credential. On your ISA profile, find the link “Apply for an ISA Certification.”  Then, complete the application for your selected credential. Second, once the application is submitted and approved by ISA, you can register for an exam. Be sure to submit your application well in advance of registering for an exam as it can take several weeks to get a submitted application approved.

Contact us

Frances Waite, statewide Urban Forestry Coordinator
(Statewide responsibilities.  Also provides direct assistance to Richland and Lexington Counties)
fwaite@scfc.gov | (803) 896-8864

Urban Service Map

Cara Specht, Coastal Region Urban Forester
(serving Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton, Jasper and Orangeburg counties)
cspecht@scfc.gov | (839) 201-2722

Dena Whitesides, Piedmont Region Urban Forester
(serving Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union, and York Counties)
dwhitesides@scfc.gov | (803) 391-0330

Ann Huyler, Pee Dee Region Urban Forestry Specialist
(serving Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Sumter, and Williamsburg Counties)
ahuyler@scfc.gov | (864) 910-0139