Trees are more than something pretty to look at or sit under. Much like schools, streets and sewer lines, trees are essential infrastructure. They are vital to the health and wealth of people.
- Trees across the U.S. absorb 17.4 million tons of air pollutants, preventing 670,000 cases of asthma and other acute respiratory symptoms annually.
- In cities nationwide, trees prevent approximately 1,200 heat-related deaths and countless heat-related illnesses annually. This ability of trees to protect people from heat is significant, given that a 10-fold increase in heat-related deaths is expected in the Eastern U.S. by 2050.
- Nationwide in the U.S., trees reduce energy use for heating and cooling by 7.2%, on average.
- Trees are a source of income—such as jobs related to tree maintenance and making products out of reclaimed wood. For every $1 million invested in forest restoration, 39.7 forest-related jobs are created in rural U.S. areas alone.
But a map of tree cover is too often a map of income and race—especially in cities. That’s because, often in cities, trees are sparse in low-income neighborhoods and some neighborhoods of color. The inequitable distribution of trees exacerbates social inequities.
How are we addressing social equity?
Our approach to addressing social equity is three-pronged. In our Innovation Lab, we incubate new tools and scientific research to help solve complicated puzzles and empower the forestry field. We create place-based partnerships in cities and large, rural landscapes so we can work with others to develop and implement enduring, science-based data and plans that relate to planting trees and taking care of the trees we already have. And we build movements related to #TreeEquity, federal funding for urban forestry and other initiatives that inspire and empower actions at a large scale. Following are some of the projects we are working on that are part of this approach.