Our urban forest strategy is our guiding document for planning, engaging, maintaining, protecting and planting Kitchener’s urban forest.

On this page:

  1. Our strategy
  2. Our Urban Forest Canopy
  3. City trees
  4. Structural pruning
  5. Invasive species
  6. Background information

Our strategy

This long-term strategy presents our vision and goal for a sustainable urban forest and names five branches of a sustainable urban forest that will guide future decisions and the setting of priorities.

The following key principles have strongly influenced the development of this strategy:

  • the urban forest includes all trees on public and private lands
  • the community plays a key role in the urban forest, particularly on private lands
  • trees and the larger urban forest provide economic, environmental and social benefits to the community
  • a sustainable urban forest maximizes benefits while minimizing the associated costs and risk

We developed the strategy and implementation plan after a community engagement and planning process including feedback from more than 1,800 residents.

Watch this short video to learn more about our urban forest strategy:

Read the full Sustainable Urban Forest Strategy.


Our Urban Forest Canopy

During the development of the Urban Forest Strategy, we measured the Urban Forest Canopy. This is the amount of area of Kitchener that, when viewed from above, is covered in tree canopy. It is generally understood that 30% canopy cover is the minimal amount needed to provide for a connected system that supports biodiversity. However, getting to 30% canopy cover is difficult in urban areas and most Ontario cities have less, sometimes much less, canopy than this.

In 2015 we found that Kitchener had an urban forest canopy of around 26% or 3,474 hectares of canopy cover. This was remeasured in 2019 and we had increased to 27% or around 3,615 hectares of canopy. This shows that despite the loss of tree through the impacts of emerald ash borer and losses because of development, the growth in our existing mature trees has led to an overall increase in canopy. While these are excellent results and rank Kitchener among the cities with the highest urban canopy covers in Ontario, to maintain or improve this will take work.

To continue to support a health urban forest canopy and a growing one that maximizes the benefits of trees and supports biodiversity, in 2021 the City will set an Urban Forest Canopy Target. This will shape how the City will manage its urban forest canopy, for example, by highlighting the importance of tree maintenance to ensure all the new trees in the City grow to be mature and healthy trees supporting the canopy of the future.


City trees

If you have a concern or question about a city tree, please call us at 519-741-2345 or send us an email. We want to know about low tree limbs, dead trees and other safety issues for residents.


Structural pruning

Our forestry staff do structural pruning on city trees to help them grow into healthy, mature trees. Structural pruning helps increase trees health, longevity and resiliency to climate change.

In forests, trees develop strong branch structure because they grow near each other. The shade created by other trees limits the growth of lower limbs. In the city, where there are a lot of single trees, the amount of sunlight lets them grow competing branches. This type of tree structure is vulnerable to breakage and can reduce the tree’s life expectancy. Trees with one dominant stem and well-spaced branches are more likely to thrive for a long time.

After we do structural pruning, the trees will have fewer branches and look less full. This is a part of the process and is not a cause for concern. Pruning happens over a period of years and helps develop a strong, resilient branch structure.


Invasive species

Invasive species, including emerald ash borers, threaten the health of our urban forest. Our strategy gives direction for monitoring, preventing and managing the impacts of invasive species.

For more information, visit the Grand River Conservation Authority page about invasive species or get involved by mapping and reporting invasive species in Ontario through the EDD Maps Program.


Background information

  1. 2017 Kitchener’s Sustainable Urban Forest Report Card rates our earlier forestry program using 28 targets that are recognized as key components of a sustainable urban forest program
  2. Developing a sustainable urban forest program background document explains why we are doing this work, the benefits of the urban forest, gives an overview of the project, key challenges and opportunities facing Kitchener's urban forest, and the next steps
  3. Tree Canopy Report details Kitchener's tree canopy, based on analysis of 2014 imagery
  4. Kitchener's online urban forest story map lets you discover the urban forest in your neighbourhood and learn more about the city's tree canopy