Conference paper

“On private land we’re fighting a losing battle”: local government officer perspectives on urban forest management in the private realm

Biodiversity conservation Forests Land management Urban ecosystems Urban planning Australia

The urban forest is a critical infrastructure of cities, providing cooling, wellbeing, amenity and biodiversity benefits. Protecting and enhancing the urban forest is increasingly recognised as an important activity of government. Much of this focus is on public land, such as parks and streets. Yet in most urban areas more than half of the urban forest is on private land – largely on residential lots. This poses challenges for integrated urban forest management, requiring partnership with private landowners/managers and mechanisms to encourage, influence and compel supportive action. While this issue is gaining attention, there is little evidence from emerging efforts that effective management regimes are imminent. 

This paper reports on a survey of local government urban forest professionals across Australia conducted in July 2020. We received 169 completed survey responses from council officers from 118 different urban Local Government Authorities (LGAs). Focusing on qualitative data from Likert scale and open-ended questions we interrogate the barriers and potential enablers to improved urban forest management on private land. Using thematic analysis with a goverence actor-oriented approach we examine officer expressions of perceived support/resistance from their local government organisation; local government leaders (senior managers and elected councillors); state government; and community. 

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