Building Equity

Home/Priority Issues: People

Although America has prospered in recent decades, many people have been left behind, especially those in lower income urban neighborhoods and in rural communities. Unemployment in these communities often runs well above the national average, and people here face greater health concerns and other social challenges.

American Forests believes that forests can help create opportunities for people in these underserved areas and address disparities that cross racial and ethnic lines as well as income brackets. Through this new area of leadership and innovation, we are developing partnerships and activities that directly promote greater equity, including employment.

Recreation provides 6.1 million jobs to Americans.

Source: Outdoor Industry Association

People are willing to pay up to 12% more for goods and services in well-landscaped areas.

Source: Journal of Urban Forestry

Our leadership is focused into two initial activities:

Urban Tree Equity

Across American cities, there are dramatic disparities in tree canopy that track on economic, racial and ethnic lines. Put simply, in most cities trees grow on money and influence, which means that low-income neighborhoods can have 25 percent or less of the tree canopy found in more affluent areas.

American Forests is building awareness on this pressing issue, calling attention to this deficit for underserved communities and demanding greater investment, from city budgets and federal funding to the private sector, to fix the problem.

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Forest Job Opportunities

Trees and forests are ideally positioned to create jobs where they are needed most: in urban neighborhoods and rural communities. American Forests has developed new efforts through our flagship forest restoration programs to create new economic opportunities.

Our Community ReLeaf program has launched a collaboration with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) to help connect lower-income people in American Forests’ partner cities to professional opportunities as arborists, landscapers, and other tree care professions. We are building a new model for linking together American Forests’ community-based activities, like educational programs, tree planting and vacant lot nurseries, with professional apprenticeship and training programs run by TCIA. This partnership has potential to create pathways to employment for thousands of people in underserved urban communities across America.

Through American ReLeaf, we are partnering with forest products companies like Independent Stave Company to help replant and restore forests like white oak that are sustainably managed for high-value wood products. These forest businesses are cornerstone employers for the rural communities that have suffered so strongly over the decades. Assuring future sustainability for the forests these companies rely on is needed to continue investment and job growth.

Our Experts

Ian Leahy, Vice President of Urban Forestry

Phone: 202.370.4524
Email Ian

Eric Sprague, Vice President of Forest Restoration

Phone: 202.370.4516
Email Eric

Sarah Lillie Anderson, Senior Manager, Tree Equity Programs

Phone: 202.370.1981
Email Sarah


American Forests and Bank of America to Plant Trees in Houston American Forests and Bank of America will be in Houston on Saturday, October 19th, to plant trees at

American Forests Celebrates Infrastructure Week 2019 It’s Infrastructure Week! This is the seventh year in a coalition-led effort to stress rebuilding and modernizing America’s infrastructure. The message is clear:

American Forests Establishes Two Neighborhood Tree Nurseries in Columbus Ohio for Earth Month 2019 With support from JPMorgan Chase, vacant lots will soon be transformed into beautiful working nurseries made