Most people associate the word forestry with visions of vast evergreen stands sheltered beneath majestic mountains, not quarter-acre house plots in suburbia.
Though it may sound like an oxymoron, urban forestry is gaining attention as a way to broaden city dwellers' understanding of nature and ecology.
"The biggest difference between a rural forest and an urban forest is that in a rural forest, the dominant species is trees, where as in a town, it's people," says Mary Tebo, New Hampshire Community Tree Steward Coordinator. "But you still have soil, wildlife, and water. All the resources of the woods are in your backyard."
Ms. Tebo's program is one of many springing up across the United States, helping people become more familiar with the benefits and responsibilities of planting trees. (Arbor Day in the US is April 30, this year.)
A growing body of evidence seems to indicate that urban forestry can not only improve the physical environment but the social environment as well, research supporters are quick to point out.
"Planting trees around your house will cool your house in the summer and protect it from the winds in the winter," says Tebo. "One tree cools the air as much as five air conditioners running 20 hours a day. Trees can also raise your property value as much as 15 percent. Apartments also rent faster and have higher occupancy rates in wooded areas."
Mindy Maslin, project manager of Environmental Education for the Philadelphia Green project, has her own list of tree positives, but shaded by her background in social work. "When we take a vacant lot and turn it into a pocket park, the people in the neighborhood start coming out and spending time there, and then organizing other projects like reducing street crime. Trees are an organizing tool."