JERSEY CITY, NJ – With a demonstrable need for concern regarding environmental matters worldwide, Sustainable Jersey City (SJC) conducted an assessment of tree cover citywide.

The “We Can’t Manage What We Don’t Measure!” campaign found that Jersey City’s Tree Canopy had further deteriorated by more than 6% since the 2015 Jersey City Tree Canopy Assessment, and now reflected only a 10.9% canopy cover for the city. According to Jersey City officials, SJC's assessment was conducted independently and these results have not been verified by the City of Jersey City.

Nearly two-dozen Neighborhood Captains spearheaded SJC’s Tree Mapping effort by leading 300 volunteer Citizen Scientists to collect data for all 35 Jersey City neighborhoods in one of the largest volunteer-led efforts of its kind.

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“I’m grateful for the response we’ve received to our Tree Mapping efforts. Our Neighborhood Captains have really been cheerleaders for our campaign, and our Citizen Scientist Tree Mappers have already mapped over 5,000 Trees so far. We’re all enthusiastic about restoring Jersey City’s Urban Tree Canopy,” says SJC’s Tree Mapping Census Program Lead, Erika Bruce.

SJC’s OpenTreeMap (OTM) plots tree information onto a real-time map of Jersey City. The map uses a crowd-sourcing platform iNaturalist for species identification, and features an Eco Benefits Calculator that provides insights into annual cost using a methodology developed by the U.S. Forest Service. The Tree Mapping Dashboard allows for views of mapped Trees by ward, neighborhood, species, Tree health condition and Eco Benefits, among other criteria.

“When we first set out on this journey to bring an updated OTM to Jersey City, our main focus was on citizen science and data,” says SJC’s Tech Lead Tom Zinckgraf. “What has resulted is the beginning of a platform that seamlessly integrates data from our trained volunteers as well as other private, public and municipal data sources to tell the story of what we hope is a new chapter for Jersey City’s Trees.”

For those interested in helping write that chapter, SJC plans to expand its Citizen Scientist volunteer network in the spring of 2021 with additional training sessions.

SJC Founder and Chair Debra Italiano says, “As the national trend of deteriorating Urban Tree Canopies persists, we have learned that municipal decision makers are challenged by the lack of tools needed to manage, protect and restore their Tree Canopies.”

To that end, the organization plans to make their customizable Tree Mapping inventory management platform available to other municipalities for a modest fee to help cover hosting fees and support services for the platform.

“Creating this live database of Tree data and stewardship for Jersey City is one piece of the puzzle,” says Italiano. “The other two important pieces are amending Chapter 321 Jersey City Tree Ordinance to prevent indiscriminate Tree removal and to invoke US Forest Service standards and other best practices, such as legislating a funding mechanism to restore our Tree Canopy.”

Tree Mapping activities are planned to continue until leaves start to fall. To join this effort, visit the SJC Tree Mapping Census Registry.

Edited to reflect that these statistics have not been verified by the City of Jersey City.

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