Community Tree Guides Help Managers Show that Trees Pay Us Back
In 1998 PSW scientists began extensive measurements of 900 city trees in Modesto, CA to calculate their benefits and costs. The following year 'Tree Guidelines for San Joaquin Valley Communities' was published to help managers calculate the value of new tree plantings in terms of future energy savings, carbon sequestration, air pollutant uptake, stormwater runoff reduction, and property value increase. The 65-page peer-reviewed publication contained tabular information on typical tree planting and stewardship costs based on a survey of local arborists. Guidelines for selecting, siting, and planting trees to maximize energy savings and other benefits were included in the Guide. Subsequent Guides have included examples demonstrating how the benefit-cost information can be adjusted for local conditions when the goal is to estimate future benefits and costs for a planting project.
Twelve years later, the 16th and final Community Tree Guide was published for Central Florida based on research conducted in Orlando. Providing complete coverage of the US, any user can now compare future net benefits from alternative tree planting scenarios. In Minnesota, a series of workshops helped communities use a spreadsheet template with data from the 'Midwest Community Tree Guide' to calculate net benefits for their tree planting projects. In California, data from 'Tree Guidelines for Inland Empire Communities' was used by United Voices for Better Communities to estimate future air pollutant uptake benefits for a planting project funded by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. A series of 16 companion brochures has been published by PSW and titled 'Trees Pay Us Back.' The colorful, pocket-size publications distill information from the Community Tree Guides into common language for decision-makers and residents.
Information in the Community Tree Guides is proving to be a powerful force wielded by local advocates in support of urban and community forestry programs across the country. Cash-strapped cities are grappling with aging infrastructure that threatens public safety and poses immense financial challenges. Climate change challenges cities to more efficiently manage water and energy flows, while more frequent abnormal flows strain their existing infrastructure. These Community Tree Guides are providing credible information on the net benefits of well-managed urban forests that is timely as cities try to protect and restore environmental quality while enhancing economic opportunity. Moreover, research that underpins the Tree Guides has been incorporated into tree benefit calculators that are used in thousands of communities across the U.S.:
Forest Service Partners