Preparing for Urban Forest Pests: a Resource for Local Governments 

Benjamin Thompson Benjamin Thompson
Urban Forestry Specialist, Washington State Department of Natural Resources
More articles by Benjamin Thompson.

Trees play a critical role in urban greenspaces benefiting both people and wildlife. These urban forests lie at the interface of trade, the movement of people, and neighboring forest and agricultural resources. The movement of goods and people brings with it the risk of introducing non-native urban forest pests, the worst of these pests can have costly, irreversible and lasting impacts to the landscapes they infest.  

Costly mitigation efforts such as quarantines, tree removals, and perpetual management of damaging insect pests is estimated to cost billions of dollars annually in the United States. Due to the nature of pest infestations, local municipalities and individuals bear many of the long-term costs. Low-income and historically underserved neighborhoods tend to cope with greater burdens of impact and cost. 

To address this, the Washington Invasive Species Council, in partnership with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Urban & Community Forestry Program received a grant from the US Department of Agriculture Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to develop the “Urban Forest Pest Readiness Playbook”. 

Key stakeholders including representatives from Washington tribes, federal and state agencies, city forestry staff, park managers, county staff, public utilities, Washington State University Extension Agents, grounds managers, and professional arborists were invited to participate in surveys and workshops that helped shape the final product. 

The playbook is a tool to prepare communities for potential outbreaks of invasive pests through self-assessments of readiness, as well as suggested follow-up actions to improve readiness. 

It provides a set of actions that towns, cities, counties, and urban forestry programs should take to address the threat of forest pests. The purpose of this playbook is to close readiness gaps between federal, state, and local governments. 

After using the playbook, users should have an understanding of their organization’s preparedness, documentation of what is already known, and a path forward for improving pest readiness capabilities. 

The Playbook is now available for download at this link. 

The rollout of the playbook was accompanied by a webinar that took place on Oct. 29, which is available to view here. The webinar includes an introduction to invasive pests, a review of the playbook itself, and an overview of grant resources available to Washington cities and towns through the DNR Urban Forestry Program that can be used to help communities address pest readiness. 

Since the playbook roll-out, additional funding has been received from the USDA Forest Service to continue this work. Next steps include continued stakeholder engagement and municipal training events, technical assistance to Washington communities navigating the playbook’s self-assessment protocols, and solicitation and aggregation of tree inventory data from Washington communities to identify potential vulnerabilities to known invasive pests.  

Updates on the next phase of this work will appear in coming editions of the DNR Urban Forestry Program’s monthly newsletter, the Tree Link.  

For additional information, please contact: 

Ben Thompson
Urban Forestry Specialist
Washington State Department of Natural Resources