USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station


Pacific Southwest Research Station
800 Buchanan Street
West Annex Building
Albany, CA 94710-0011

(510) 559-6300

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Urban Ecosystems and Social Dynamics

Urban Ecosystems and Processes

Benefit-Cost Analysis of Fort Collins' Municipal Forest


The primary purpose of this report is to answer the question: Do the accrued benefits from Fort Collinsâ?? urban forest justify an annual municipal budget that is nearly $1 million? Our results indicate that the 31,000 streets and park trees in Fort Collins produce substantial benefits. Net annual benefits total $1.17 million ($38/tree, $9/capita). For every $1 invested in tree management, residents receive $2.18 in benefits for increased property values, reduced stormwater runoff, cleaner air, energy conservation, and reduced atmospheric carbon dioxide. Over the years Fort Collins has invested millions in its municipal forest. Citizens are now receiving a relatively large return on that investment. Continued investment in management is critical to insuring that residents receive a greater return on investment in the future. Other important findings: â?¢ Fort Collinsâ?? municipal forest is healthy and well-stocked. Seventy-five percent of the trees are in excellent or good condition, 20% are in fair condition, and 5% are poor, dying, or dead. Approximately 66% of all streetside planting sites are filled with trees. â?¢ Benefits total $2.17 million ($70/tree) with greatest value for aesthetic benefits/increased property values ($1.6 million, $52/tree) and reduced stormwater runoff ($404,000, $13/tree). Building shade, cooler summertime temperatures, and decreased winter winds attributed to street and park trees produce energy savings valued at $112,000 ($4/tree). Smaller benefits result from atmospheric carbon dioxide reduction ($25,000, $2/tree) and improved air quality ($18,000, $1/tree). â?¢ These findings indicate that the Cityâ??s trees are providing important aesthetic, health, and environmental benefits to residents. â?¢ Costs total $997,000 ($32/tree) with 41% of this amount for pruning ($405,000). Mature tree care accounts for 70% of total costs. â?¢ Green ash is the most abundant street tree species. It accounts for 22% of all street trees and produces 17% of all street tree benefits. Other important species by virtue of their size and numbers are Honeylocust, American elm, Hackberry, Siberian elm, Littleleaf linden, and Silver maple. â?¢ Large, old trees (> 24 inch dbh) account for 11% of the population and produce 22% of all benefits ($144/tree). American elms on streets alone account for 23% of total annual benefits from old trees. Siberian elm, Silver maple, and Plains cottonwood along streets together account for another 31% of the remaining benefits. Although these dominant species have proven to be relatively long-lived, they are being phased-out of the population. Insect and disease problems, brittle wood and intensive pruning requirements make them unsuitable for planting in large numbers. Intensive inspection and maintenance are necessary to insure that these problems do not jeopardize tree health, public safety, and the sizable benefits that these trees produce. â?¢ The City is planting a myriad of large-stature trees that are more suitable than the species they replace. These new plantings include varieties of White ash, Oak, Maple, and Linden. As a result, the forest is becoming more diverse, and ultimately, more stable.

Years of Research:  2002-2003

Funded by:  USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region

Cooperators:  City of Fort Collins, Colorado State Forest Service, and Colorado State University

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USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.