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Benefits of the Urban Forest

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Trees are a city’s “green infrastructure” system and are as important to a community’s overall quality of life as are its “built infrastructure” of streets and buildings.  Trees in a street corridor enhance the urban scene while softening development, screening unattractive areas, blocking wind, cooling streets and buildings, and filtering air, noise and storm water pollution.  These functions translate to direct cost savings for local government, businesses and residents.

Significant research has been done which shows the importance of trees in a community.  Scientists and researchers have studied the effects of trees on human behavior, traffic patterns, crime rates, air quality, storm water runoff, and property values.  Trees positively affect human and public health.  The benefits that trees provide are commonly divided into three categories—economic, environmental, and social.  Trees can add value to your home, help cool your home, break the cold winds to lower your heating costs, and provide food for wildlife.

Economic Benefits

Truckee River Walk with fall color trees

Trees are an investment by the public, and they provide a positive return to the community.  Trees increase property values, enhance shopping experience and reduce heating/cooling costs.

  • Every $1 spent by the City on its tree program returns $2.02 in total benefits to the community.  USDA Forest Service i-Tree software
  • If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in five years your energy bills should be three percent less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12 percent.  Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research
  • Trees increase shopping.  Shoppers in well-landscaped business districts are willing to pay more for parking and up to 12 percent more for goods and services.  American Forests National Urban Forest Conference
  • A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000.  Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers
  • In one study, 83 percent of realtors believe that mature trees have a ‘strong or moderate impact’ on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98 percent. Arbor National Mortgage & American Forests
  • Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent.  Management Information Services/ICMA
  • Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating.  USDA Forest Service
  • Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent.  The Arbor Day Foundation
  • Healthy, mature trees add an average of 10 percent to a property’s value.  USDA Forest Service
  • Nationally, the 60 million street trees have an average value of $525 per tree.  Management Information Services

Environmental Benefits

Bird in Tree

Trees protect and enhance the environment.  Trees help control “urban heat islands,” they improve air quality, attract wildlife, supply oxygen and filter rainwater.

  • The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Trees reduce air pollution by absorbing gaseous pollutants like ozone and filter particulate matter like dust, ash, pollen and smoke. 
  • One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.  U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Trees intercept rain and storm water runoff which improves water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply.  USDA Forest Service
  • Trees stabilize hillsides by supporting soil with their root systems.
  • Trees provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, even in urban areas.  These often attract eco-tourists providing additional economic benefits.
  • A tree with a 25 foot diameter canopy can reduce a homeowner’s heating and cooling bills by eight to 12 percent.  Walkable Communities

Social Benefits

Idlewild Park Path

Trees make a community livable and help give it character and a sense of “place.”  Trees can reduce stress, beautify the neighborhood, promote human interaction and provide visual color.

  • Health, mature trees help establish character and identity of a neighborhood.
  • Trees in urban parks and recreation areas are estimated to improve outdoor leisure and recreation experiences in the United States by $2 billion per year.  Journal of Arboriculture
  • Trees soften building lines and large expanses of pavement.
  • Trees provide shade for people to gather and interact, reducing stress and strengthening personal relationships.
  • In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension. Dr. Roger S. Ulrich Texas A&M University
  • Street trees can help bring speeds down seven to eight mph.  Walkable Communities
  • Trees and landscaping around apartment buildings had 52 percent fewer crimes than those without any trees. Buildings with medium amounts of greenery had 42 percent fewer crimes.  Environment and Crime in the Inner City.
  • Neighborhood tree planting projects foster a sense of community pride, cooperation and interaction among residents.