Building Tree Equity

Home/Our Work/Community ReLeaf

American Forests is committed to building vibrant cities through urban forests and greenspace. From ensuring equitable distribution of tree canopy to creating much-needed tree care industry jobs, we are working with our diverse group of partners to help bring equity to communities across the US to make sure all people in cities and towns receive the benefits that trees provide.

We accomplish this goal by building cities’ capacity to grow and maintain their tree canopy. In partnership with city leaders and community groups, we develop science-based action plans, advocate for and fund urban forestry in innovative ways, implement high-impact planting projects, and build public awareness.

Trees and forests are vital to life on Earth — but especially in our cities. Sometimes overlooked as just scenery, urban trees are the green lungs of our cities, intercept and filter rainfall for clean urban waters, and keep cities 5° to 7° cooler on hot summer days.

Trees also play subtler but equally important roles in creating healthy people and prosperous cities. Numerous studies have demonstrated that urban trees improve mental health, increase student performance and build stronger community ties. Planting and caring for urban trees can even be a powerful tool to create job opportunities for unemployed and underemployed people.

In addition to this place-based work, the Community ReLeaf program is helping foster a national movement by creating tools that everyone can use, like Vibrant Cities Lab, a free resource that curates the latest research, best practices and technical expertise in urban forestry. We are also leading public policy, in partnership with the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition, to assure continued federal investment in urban forests through programs like the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

With so many benefits, it is important that all people in cities have access to trees. Unfortunately, this is far from reality. Many people, primarily in underserved neighborhoods, live in areas with few trees. Our Community ReLeaf program is dedicated to fixing this problem.

Priority Cities

Miami

Helping cool the city and address the damaging effects of storms like Hurricane Irma through tree plantings in underserved communities, urban tree canopy assessments, an online Canopy Planner tool so city leaders can model different scenarios, and a new Canopy Action Plan.

Detroit

Our current focus is on creating two vacant lot tree nurseries that can supply inexpensive trees and create jobs in the city for years to come. We are at the center of building a robust local coalition that includes various city agencies, local nonprofits, universities and businesses.

Houston

American Forests has worked with the Houston and surrounding areas since 2016 planning an unprecedented expansion of the city’s tree canopy to create a cooler, more resilient and more equitable Houston.

  • Vibrant Cities LabPeople want to live, work and learn near trees. Vibrant Cities Lab provides the free tools to make it happen.
  • Urban Forest Case Studies: With more than 80 percent of the U.S. population now calling urban areas home, finding solutions to these issues that fit within a city’s budgetary constraints, while also enhancing the city for the better, is of tantamount importance.
  • Urban Forest Assessments Resource Guide: A formidable, but accessible guide to assessing a community’s forest assets, and using the data to maximize forest benefits.
  • Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition: An assembly of national organizations working to advance a unified urban forest agenda for our nation’s communities.

Our Experts

Ian Leahy, Director of Urban Forestry

Phone: 202.370.4524
Email Ian

Eliza Kretzmann, Urban Forestry Manager

Phone: 202.370.4508
Email Eliza

Jad Daley, President & CEO

Phone: 202.370.4517
Email Jad

Rebecca Turner, Vice President & Chief of Staff, General Counsel

Phone: 202.370.4521
Email Rebecca

Our Partners

The Community ReLeaf program is powered with the help of other national partners, including the U.S. Forest Service and corporate partners like Bank of America who have helped provide funding and technical expertise for these partnerships.