Why do urban forests matter?
Urban forests are proximal to almost 80% of the U.S. population.1 Cities are experiencing rapid growth, with increased development and growing numbers of people moving to cities and towns. Indeed, urban growth is projected to add close to 100 million acres of urban land to the United States by 2060.2 However, almost every city across the United States is experiencing tree canopy loss due to development, pest and disease issues, climate change pressures, and budget constraints. Even with robust tree planting efforts, canopy cover in many areas continues to decline.
Urban forests provide many benefits to communities, including but not limited to mitigating stormwater runoff, improving air quality, shading buildings and reducing energy usage, and providing community connections through increased access to green space. Local governments, working in partnership with residents and community-led organizations, are key to managing and maintaining a resilient urban tree canopy.
Carbon crediting can be a funding tool for municipalities to meet tree planting goals and increase tree equity.
From Austin to Minneapolis, urban forestry organizations across the country are leveraging carbon crediting to enhance, grow, and steward their urban forests. To date, almost 205,000 trees have been planted as part of 19 carbon projects led by 11 organizations in seven states. These projects were led by a range of different entities, from municipal bodies such as the City of Highland Park (IL), Pierce Conservation District (WA), and Kendall County Forest Preserve District (IL), to local nonprofits such as Trees Forever (IA), TreeFolks (TX), Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust (WA), and Green Minneapolis (MN). The trees planted represent 105,230 metric tons of CO2e stored over the projects’ lifetime. Most importantly, the revenue generated from the sale of carbon credits can be invested back into the care, maintenance, and growth of the urban forest, either by funding the maintenance of newly planted trees or by increasing the number of trees planted throughout a city.
Carbon planting projects not only represent robust planting projects that create long-term commitments to tree survival – many also integrate substantial community programs, such as youth workforce development, promotion of equitable distribution of tree canopy, and robust community engagement efforts.
Want to find out more?
The following case studies profile planting projects (afforestation and reforestation carbon projects) led by or in partnership with city governments. They describe the project from start to finish, capturing the overall costs, level of effort, and benefits.
- City of Des Moines, IA and Trees Forever, IA
- City of Highland Park, IL
In addition, CFC and the Mountain to Sound Greenway Trust presented a webinar for the US Forest Service in December about Carbon Offset Opportunities to Plant and Protect Urban Forests. View the recorded session here.
- David J Nowak, Eric J Greenfield. US Urban Forest Statistics, Values, and Projections, Journal of Forestry, Volume 116, Issue 2, March 2018, Pages 164–177, https://doi.org/10.1093/jofore/fvx004
- David J. Nowak, Eric J. Greenfield. Declining urban and community tree cover in the United States. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 2018; 32: 32 DOI: 10.1016/j.ufug.2018.03.006