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Individual Highlight

The Value of Urban Tree Cover

Photo of Walnut tree in suburban neighborhood, St. Paul, MN. Robert G. Haight, USDA Forest ServiceWalnut tree in suburban neighborhood, St. Paul, MN. Robert G. Haight, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Forest Service researchers are estimating how much home buyers are willing to spend for greater neighborhood tree cover; and, the results for home buyers in the Twin Cities metropolitan area of Minnesota suggest an average homeowner is willing to spend hundreds of dollars for a 10 percent increase in neighborhood tree cover. This willingness to pay reflects a preference for tree-lined streets and the shading and aesthetic environment they offer, and it represents an important portion of the economic value of services associated with urban trees: the portion that contributes directly to tax bases.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Haight, Robert G. 
Research Location : Minnesota
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 499


Urban forests benefit residents by shading and insulating buildings, improving the scenic quality of neighborhoods, providing privacy, and shielding residents from the negative effects of undesirable land uses. However, the economic values of these and other services are poorly recognized and often ignored by city planners. To estimate the economic value of changes in services associated with neighborhood trees, Forest Service scientists are using non-market valuation methods, among them hedonic pricing, which estimates the value of an environmental service based on the sales price of a related marketed good, such as residential property. Most often, the sale price of a house depends on its location, physical characteristics, and services associated with trees. By estimating the relationship between house sale price and these attributes, economists then determine buyers' willingness to pay for changes in tree-related services. Using records of housing sales and urban tree cover in Dakota and Ramsey Counties in Minnesota, researchers found that higher percentages of tree cover within 250 meters of a house (roughly the length of a city block) increased its sale price. This study gives city managers a tool to elicit another portion of the value of urban natural resources; knowing these values will help planners enhance regional land use policies.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Heather Sander, University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • Steve Polasky, University of Minnesota, St. Paul