If you're here on our website, you’ve probably seen our mission statement:

“Our City Forest is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating a green and healthy Silicon Valley by engaging the community in the protection, growth and maintenance of our urban ecosystem, with special focus on our urban forest.”  

But what does that actually mean? What the heck is an urban forest? I thought ecosystems only happened out in nature, how can they be urban? What does it mean to “engage community members,”? What do you people actually do? Well, in brief, Our City Forest plants, cares for, and cultivates trees and shrubs in the Silicon Valley. We do this to build a healthy, sustainable urban forest.

The urban forest is the network of trees planted on streets, yards, medians and parks in our cities. The urban ecosystem is the network of plants, animals, insects and fungi that live alongside humans in the built environment. The urban ecosystem also includes green spaces and nature preserves, like the Guadalupe River Park and Ulistac Natural Area in San José.

The urban forest isn’t for decoration; it’s important for the well-being of the city and its people.  The urban forest shades us from the summer sun, reducing energy costs and health risks from the sweltering summer heat. It lessens the heat absorbed by concrete and asphalt, which can make cities even hotter. Trees clean the air of motor emissions, absorbing greenhouse gasses, and trapping  particulate pollutants in their leaves and bark. This urban forest filtration system  prevents smog and  removes hundreds of tons of pollution a year from our air. Trees also help with the removal of pollutants from groundwater and erosion control in times of heavy rainfall. That’s important, especially after a drought, when groundcover is dead or dormant and less able to handle a sudden deluge. By maintaining our city forest we are helping the health of the entire community, and providing crucial habitat to the urban environment.

Our dedicated core of staff and Americorps Service Members are only able to accomplish our mission by reaching out to the communities of the Silicon Valley. We depend on the continual support and energy of volunteers to plant and grow our trees. It would be impossible without them. Some of them help us every day at our Community Nursery (where we grow our trees). Some of them help us xeriscape lawns or maintain our trees. Most of them are planters, arriving in droves to help us get our trees in the ground. They come from all walks of life, software engineers and Girl Scouts, senior citizens and high school kids, baristas and beekeepers. All of them are wonderful. All of them are necessary.

The volunteer energy and community spirit that drive us give this organization its name. We are Our City Forest. because you make us possible, because you care about our urban environment, because you are invested in the wellbeing and improvement of our cities. Thank you for continuing to support us in our mission to make Silicon Valley green, vibrant and environmentally friendly.