An audit system developed by the U.S. Forest Service can help urban forest programs benchmark their resources and program capacity, and provide direction for urban forest management programs and plans.

Urban Forestry South, a science delivery center of the Forest Service Southern Research Station Integrating Human and Natural Systems unit, recently beta tested their new Urban Forest Sustainability and Management Audit (UFSMA) System at Agnes Scott College, a small women’s liberal arts college in Decatur, Georgia.

“As a member of Arbor Day Foundation Tree Campus USA® program, Agnes Scott was a great location to try out this new system,” said Ed Macie, science delivery team leader for Urban Forestry South. “This audit system is designed to provide a framework for either internal (ad hoc) audits by program managers or for independent evaluations by an external lead auditor and audit team.”

The primary objectives of the audit system are to:

  • benchmark changes in urban forest program capacity over time;
  • provide program direction that increases the level of professionalism and the application of best management practices in urban forest management;
  • increase the health of the green assets managed by the program; and
  • optimize management for identified ecosystem services.

The audit system can be used to evaluate municipal, college, or corporate campus urban forest management programs. The audit checklist can also be used in a less formal internal process to develop a cursory “snapshot” of an urban forest management program for the purpose of identifying the program’s strengths and evaluating its perceived deficiencies.

“The beta test at Agnes Scott College was very successful and resulted in a strong recognition of the value of the campus’s urban forest program by campus administration and leadership,” said Macie. “As a result, recommendations for program changes are being presented to the College Board of Trustees and an implementation plan is being drafted per the audit’s recommendations.”

Urban Forestry South plans to continue testing the audit system this year with municipalities and other college campuses with Arbor Day Foundation Tree City® and Tree Campus USA® designations.