Indiana Forest Alliance works to preserve urban forests in Indy
INDIANAPOLIS — There are more than 4,000 urban forests in the city of Indianapolis. An urban forest is one acre or more of trees. Protecting this natural foliage benefits the whole city.
To ensure that these remaining forests are protected, the Indiana Forest Alliance launched the Forests for Indy initiative in 2018. The program works with landowners to get rid of invasive species that could impede the growth of natural plants and trees. .
“People aren’t used to thinking about forests in the city,” said Rae Schnapp, conservation director for the Indiana Forest Alliance. “Our working definition is one acre of canopy or more because urban forests tend to be small.”
Schnapp works directly with homeowners to inform them of plants they should eliminate from their yards and land. The reason is that even if these plots of land are small, they can have a big impact on the city; especially when it comes to reducing the territory’s carbon footprint.
“It can be six degrees cooler half a mile from a forest, so it’s not just in the shade itself,” Schnapp said. “They also absorb air pollutants and sequester carbon, which actually lessens the impact of burning fossil fuels and driving cars.”
But for residents of the River Park neighborhood, the forest also helps protect their homes from certain weather events.
“We have a nice neighborhood, but it’s in the floodplain,” said Elizabeth Mahoney, chair of the board of the River Park Neighborhood Association. “So we understand the important role that trees and especially tall trees play in maintaining our quality of life in the floodplain.”
Tall trees help absorb excess water during heavy rains. That’s why their neighborhood wanted to make sure their urban forest is healthy.
Along with this, many urban forests have been destroyed due to the continued growth of the city of Indianapolis.
“The goal is to try to protect as much forest as possible in the city,” Schnapp said. “These are private forests, and they are incredibly vulnerable to development pressure as the city grows.”
The city’s 4,327 urban forests are unprotected, meaning they could be developed and destroyed. If you would like to learn more about the Forests For Indy initiative or plan a cleanup day in your neighborhood forest, click here.