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Seeing the Need

Across American cities, there are dramatic disparities in tree canopy that track on economic lines. In most cities, trees grow in areas of money and influence, which means that low-income neighborhoods can have a fraction of the tree canopy found in more affluent areas. As shown in research (synthesized in the Vibrant Cities Lab we created) this lack of tree canopy can negatively impact academic performance, crime rates, personal health, and can even increase illness and death from extreme heat and poor air quality.

Why Urban Trees Matter
Why Urban Trees Matter

Taking Action

Through our Community ReLeaf program, American Forests is responding to this challenge by leading the move for Tree Equity in cities across America. We partner with city leaders and community groups (22 cities and counting) to develop science-based urban forestry programs to grow and maintain tree canopy in neighborhoods that have fallen behind. We advocate for – and fund – urban forestry in innovative ways, launch high-impact planting projects, build public awareness, and lead national efforts to increase federal, state, and local funding for urban forestry projects.

Growing the Network

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.

“Without the vital input and empowerment of community members, planting and maintenance campaigns cannot be successful, and Tree Equity cannot be achieved.”

Sarah Lillie Anderson, American Forests

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As we endeavor to restore access to healthy canopy coverage in underserved communities, we recognize that a skilled workforce is fundamental to helping care for these trees. Communities with the highest tree canopy needs tend to be those that have the highest unemployment. Tree care companies and agencies are desperate to fill a labor shortage, yet they struggle to engage and retain those living in low-canopy areas, who tend to be low income people of color.

Tree Equity Careers Are Closing the Gap

Tree Equity connects people to green careers and bridges gaps between and the public and private employers who have openings but don’t know where to find qualified workers. In turn, this creates opportunity for overlooked populations like unemployed and underemployed communities of color. The result? A thriving workforce full of qualified and credentialed people who can now build and sustain economic strength and vibrant, green communities.

Compelling Figures

Nationwide, cities are in need of approximately 30,000 tree care industry workers, including: urban foresters, arborists, tree trimmers, pruners, pesticide applicators, and more. Plus, an additional 300,000 jobs in the landscape industry!

  • $40,510: U.S. annual wage for entry-level tree trimmers/pruners
  • $19.47: Median hourly wage for entry-level tree trimmers/pruners
  • 25% of all Tree Trimmers and Pruners are self-employed

Priority Cities

We’re tackling the barriers to Tree Equity at the national and local level, building community partnerships and galvanizing leaders around the critical need for increased tree canopy in America’s cities.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Priority Cities

We’re tackling the barriers to Tree Equity at the national and local level, building community partnerships and galvanizing leaders around the critical need for increased tree canopy in America’s cities.


learn more


learn more


learn more

Priority cities

view all cities


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.


People want to live, work and learn near trees. Vibrant Cities Lab provides the free tools to make it happen.

Vibrant Cities Lab

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 Case Studies

A formidable, but accessible guide to assessing a community’s forest assets, and using the data to maximize forest benefits.

Urban Forest Assessments Resource Guide

An assembly of national organizations working to advance a unified urban forest agenda for our nation’s communities.

Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition

Our Experts

Eboni Hall, Phd, Senior Director of Urban Forestry

Phone: 202.370.4515
Email Eboni

Eric Candela, Senior Manager, Community ReLeaf

Phone: 248.238.8605
Email Eric

Sarah Lillie Anderson, Senior Manager, Tree Equity Programs

Phone: 202.370.1981
Email Sarah

Rose Tileston, Urban Forests Program Manager

Phone: 202.370.1982
Email Rose

Ian Leahy, Vice President of Urban Forestry

Phone: 202.370.4524
Email Ian

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