Cities in Action: Tapping in to Critical Green Infrastructure

July 9, 2021

Overview

City Name: Boise, ID; Cleveland, OH

Problem: There is a need for a “whole-of-government effort” to invest in neighborhood trees and take tangible steps forward to deliver health equity, economic opportunity and climate resilience. Trees are vital green infrastructure and the most effective means of combating extreme heat and other conditions related to climate instability.

Solution: Boise launched the City of Trees Challenge to plant 100,000 trees and double the city’s tree canopy by 2030. Cleveland created the Cleveland Tree Coalition which calls for planting an additional 361,000 trees, growing Cleveland’s urban tree canopy cover from 18% to 30% by 2040.

Outcome: By the close of 2020, the Boise City of Trees Challenge, supported by the Arbor Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, planted 37,000 seedlings in the Boise National Forest. Although Cleveland fell short of its ambitious goal of 50,000 new trees by 2020, progress in 2021 has seen funds for and planting of 5,400 new trees toward the goal.

Boise, Idaho

Background

America is undergoing an awakening about the importance of trees for health, wealth and climate change response in our cities, towns and villages. The benefits that trees provide are needed in cities of all sizes, from major urban centers to smaller cities dotted across rural America. A whole-of-government effort is necessary to invest in neighborhood trees and take tangible steps forward to deliver health equity, economic opportunity and climate resilience to help all Americans thrive.

By almost any quality-of-life measure, trees provide significant benefits including:

  • combating extreme heat, which has devastating effects on local communities
  • reducing summer air conditioning costs up to 50% for homes and businesses
  • reducing air pollution and childhood asthma rates
  • increasing property values

Problem

The tree care industry is a growing sector that pays family-supporting wages. More than 30,000 forestry positions need to be filled over the next five years. These local jobs can’t be exported. Efforts are currently underway in cities across the country to ensure people who need these opportunities the most can pursue new career pathways into urban forestry.

Solution

Boise

Boise, Idaho launched the City of Trees Challenge in 2020 in collaboration with the Treasure Valley Canopy Network. The ambitious goal to plant one tree for every household in Boise (100,000 trees) could double the city’s canopy cover over the next decade. The City of Trees Challenge also asks Boiseans to support sponsoring a seedling for every resident (235,000 seedlings) in Idaho’s rural forests over the next decade to restore the forests after wildfires and other natural disasters.

Partnerships with home and business owners, neighborhood associations, a local tree nursery wholesaler and non-governmental partners led to over 2,000 trees planted in 2020.

In recognition of their commitment, Boise was acclaimed as a Tree City of the World, one of 68 cities across 17 countries that has been deemed an exemplary steward of their urban forest. The challenge was also pledged to the U.S Chapter of 1t.org as part of a worldwide effort to plant a trillion trees to mitigate climate change. All trees planted through the challenge will be certified through the City Forest Credits Impact Certification. The city IT team is customizing a crowd-sourcing website interface that will track data on tree planting and quantify the eco-system benefits of the decade-long project, including increased property values, stormwater captured, energy conservation, air pollution removed and carbon storage.

Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio has formed the Cleveland Tree Coalition (CTC), which is a partnership of organizations, businesses and branches of local government that strive to create a healthy, vibrant, sustainable and equitable urban forest. The CTC works collaboratively to implement the Cleveland Tree Plan, an ambitious city-wide effort to prioritize trees as critical community assets, reverse the trend of canopy loss and secure funding to maintain Cleveland’s tree infrastructure.

In 2017, the CTC proposed the CTC Goal, which calls for growing Cleveland’s urban tree canopy cover from 18% to 30% by 2040. This effort envisions a healthier, greener city and provides a benchmark against which to measure efforts to preserve and expand Cleveland’s urban forest. It also sheds light on the large task before them: planting an additional 361,000 trees in the next decade and significantly shifting a city’s viewpoint on the value of trees for future social, economic, and environmental prosperity.

To accomplish their ambitious goal of reaching 30% tree canopy coverage, the CTC approaches their work by planting and nurturing new trees each year and invests resources to prolong the lives of Cleveland’s existing tree stock. Established, mature trees are able to add considerably more canopy each year as compared to newly planted trees. Therefore, to ensure long-term success the CTC recognizes their efforts must incorporate increasing tree stock while simultaneously stewarding existing tree inventory.

Outcome

By the close of 2020, the Boise City of Trees Challenge, supported by the Arbor Foundation and The Nature Conservancy have together planted 37,000 seedlings in the Boise National Forest.

Although Cleveland fell short of its ambitious goal of 50,000 new trees by 2020, progress in 2021 has seen funds for and planting of 5,400 new trees toward the goal.

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