Towards Tree Equity: Words Matter

February 13, 2023

View of tree canopy from forest floor

The Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program believes that trees and forests in urban and community spaces should be accessible, safe, and beneficial to all. We recognize that arboricultural and forestry professions should be open and visible to all people and that tree stewardship programs should be welcoming to all voices. We acknowledge the historical discrimination that excludes many people from careers or service in urban and community forestry. We recognize that people have unequal access to the benefits provided by trees and forests based on race, physical or mental ability, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and age.

By incorporating a lens of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in all the program’s work, we envision a present and future when the values of public trees and forests are reflected on the ground in all communities.

This article begins a new and recurring segment in which program staff share learning, events and program highlights related to tree equity. For more context, read VT UCF’s guiding principles towards justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

The Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program’s work connects trees, people, and the built environment. Our program strives to protect, grow, and manage our urban forests and support the people who care for the trees in our communities. In the past, VT UCF has referred to the collective group of tree enthusiasts, tree stewards, and advocates as the “tree tribe”. We have learned this is an insensitive use of the term “tribe”. This term has a history rooted in colonization and is used to marginalize ethnic and cultural groups globally. Using this term to describe groups of people who are not indigenous dismisses the history, culture, and special status of indigenous peoples.

Simply put, words matter. We apologize for harm caused by our use of the word “tribe” in this context. We at VT UCF strive to learn, grow, and expand our collective group of tree stewards. We ask you to join us in embracing this change.