Policies and politics in urban forestry: involving citizens in municipal urban forestry initiatives

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Bhattacharjee, Kalpana
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Mack C. Shelley
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Political Science
The Department of Political Science has been a separate department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (formerly the College of Sciences and Humanities) since 1969 and offers an undergraduate degree (B.A.) in political science, a graduate degree (M.A.) in political science, a joint J.D./M.A. degree with Drake University, an interdisciplinary degree in cyber security, and a graduate Certificate of Public Management (CPM). In addition, it provides an array of service courses for students in other majors and other colleges to satisfy general education requirements in the area of the social sciences.
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There is a fair amount of discussion on urban forestry in the context of political science. Very little of that focuses on civic engagement in urban forestry initiatives of municipal governments. A lot of the literature on urban forestry (not in context of political science) that does focus on civic engagement, assumes that greater civic engagement in urban forestry programs is a desirable goal and focuses on the different ways that citizen involvement can be increased in these programs. There is no cost benefit analysis in the literature to examine if involving citizens in urban forestry programs is indeed good for urban forestry programs. In the absence of concrete estimates, it is very likely that the perceptions of municipal officials about the relative magnitude benefits and costs determine policy on engaging citizens in municipal initiatives on urban forestry.

This study examines the perceptions of municipal officials on the importance of engaging citizens in urban forestry programs and also on the possible sources of benefits and costs of such engagement. Using data collected from select cities in Iowa that employ urban forestry professionals, this study examines the opinions of three levels of municipal officials, viz., arborists, supervisors and mayors. It finds that in general municipal officials assign a great deal of importance to urban forestry for lowering pollution and improving the quality of life in cities. In general they think that the benefits of engaging citizens are likely to outweigh the costs. Except on select issues, opinions of municipal officials do not vary with their levels in the hierarchy. Further, the opinions of municipal officials are not divided along party lines in the sense that their opinions do not seem to be correlated with their political leanings.

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Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2010