What is Tree Equity?

Trees are more than scenery for our cities. They are critical infrastructure that every person in every neighborhood deserves — a basic right that we must secure. But a map of tree cover in America’s cities is too often a map of income and race. That’s because trees often are sparse in low-income neighborhoods and some neighborhoods of color. Ensuring equitable tree cover across every neighborhood can help address social inequities so that all people can thrive.

What is a Tree Equity Score?

A Tree Equity Score uses a science-based approach to determine the tree canopy cover needed in a neighborhood to ensure the people living in urban areas benefit from everything trees provide. The score is based on:

  • Existing tree canopy cover
  • Population density
  • Income
  • Employment
  • Race
  • Age
  • Surface Temperature

City government employees, community activists, urban foresters and others can use the score to make the case for planting trees in the neighborhoods that need them the most, and allocating the resources needed to do so.

Our Goal

By 2022, we will deliver Tree Equity Score to all 486 Census-defined urbanized areas in the country, home to 70% of the population of the United States.

Our Pilot Partner

Most states focus on their forests and prairies when they want to use green space to address the changing climate and its profound impact on our lives. But Rhode Island has taken a different approach- it is the only state in the country to consider its entire geographic footprint as one large urban forest to play “offense and defense” for both climate mitigation and community resilience. Because of the Governor’s commitment to urban forests, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) selected the state of Rhode Island to partner with American Forests to increase Tree Equity statewide. As a result of DDCF’s investment, Rhode Island is the first state to calculate Tree Equity Scores for all of its urban neighborhoods and pilot a suite of technical, policy and financing tools that aim to unlock the full potential for urban forests to slow climate change and improve public health.

Our hope is that the urban forestry work in Rhode Island will be an inspiration to other towns and cities to pursue Tree Equity.

Diving Deep Locally: Tree Equity Score Analyzer

Rhode Island partnered with American Forests to go beyond Tree Equity Score by creating the Tree Equity Score Analyzer (TESA). This cutting-edge, interactive tool supports both policy and project-level interventions by incorporating local data, such as hospitalizations, carbon sequestration, and flood risk with ownership parcels. Users will be able to create custom reports about the impact of policy interventions encouraging tree planting in priority neighborhoods. At the project level, users can estimate the impacts of tree planting on a parcel or custom area.

While TESA’s primary audience includes state and local decision-makers and local tree advocates, it is accessible to the public to explore Ttree Eequity and help make the case for more tree investment in their neighborhoods.

Our Funders

This project is made possible by a partnership between the State of Rhode Island, American Forests, and the Environment and Child Well-Being programs of The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). We all have a shared interest in using urban forests as a powerful tool to slow climate change, improve public health and promote social equity .