The Bounty Of The Urban Forest: Exploring The Value Of Urban Non-Timber Forest Products In Baltimore, Md. (presentation)


Typical efforts to define and quantify the value of urban trees and urban forests have focused of the various benefits and services provided by urban trees, including aesthetic beauty, pollution reduction, stormwater retention, energy savings, and wildlife habitat. This study documents the importance and value of "Non-Timber Forest Products" (NTFPs) collected and cultivated from urban trees and forest lands.

Through field observations, market observations, and semi-structured interviews with over 80 urban environmental professionals, community leaders, product vendors, and forest product collectors in Baltimore, MD, we document that there are at least 103 non-timber forest products which are currently collected by both individuals and organizations from the urban forest in Baltimore City. Collectors of urban forest products represent a wide diversity of socio-economic and ethnic groups. Through telephone interviews with urban environmental professionals in five other major U.S. cities, we document that the situation in Baltimore is not atypical.

These urban non-timber forest products include a variety of edible, medicinal, horticultural, and craft products. Examples include figs, mulberries, ginkgo nuts, chestnuts, mushrooms, medicinal herbs, seeds for propagation, seedlings for transplants, decorative greens, cones, and vines. These products are collected from street trees, yard trees, vacant lots, open park areas, forest edges, and closed-canopy forest areas. They are used for personal consumption, gifts, raw sale, and processed sale.

Through our interviews and observations, we also quantified the net product value (price - collection costs) and the net annual plant value (net product value * estimated annual plant yield) of 60 product producing species for which we had sufficient information. We conducted non-timber forest product inventories and valuations in four selected one-acre plots, two in park areas, and two in high-density residential areas to demonstrate the range of potential urban forest product values per acre.

Our valuations demonstrate that the potential value of urban non-timber forest products is significant. These values are important in that they demonstrate that urban forest products represent significant additional value to the urban forest that should not be overlooked, and they are important as direct economic values that can be captured by individual collectors.

We discuss a number of critical issues to consider for better understanding and managing for urban non-timber forest products. We conclude that by overlooking the importance of urban non-timber forest products, we are: 1) ignoring the value that various individuals from a variety of ethnic groups place on the urban forest, and 2) significantly underestimating the value of the urban forest.