Why is Tree Equity important?

Trees provide more than beauty or a comfortable place to relax. Much like schools, streets and sewer lines, trees are essential infrastructure. They are vital to the health, wealth and well-being of communities.

  • 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 by lowering surface and air temperatures. The ability of trees to reduce peak temperatures is significant, given that a 10-fold increase in heat-related deaths is expected in the Eastern U.S. by 2050.
  • On average, trees in the U.S.reduce energy demand for heating and cooling by 7.2%.
  • 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, approximately 39 forest-related jobs are created in rural U.S. areas alone.

The inequitable distribution of trees exacerbates social inequities. A map of tree cover is too often a map of income and race—especially in cities. That’s because trees often are sparse in low-income neighborhoods and some neighborhoods of color. In fact, policies from the early 1900’s are still shaping the way redlining contributes to periods of disinvestment, exacerbating tree inequity in these neighborhoods.

Why was Tree Equity Score developed?

Systemic racism and environmental inequities have left economically disadvantaged communities, vulnerable people and communities of color more exposed to environmental hazards, including more intense heat waves, poorer air quality and other climate change impacts.

In an effort to address these issues, we strive to create Tree Equity across urban areas in the U.S. Simply put, Tree Equity is defined as having enough trees so all people experience the health, economic and other benefits that trees provide. Tree Equity Score is one resource that can be used by environmental justice advocates, conservation organizations and others to help make the case for more investment in neighborhoods with the greatest need for trees, jobs and protection from the effects of climate change.

What makes Tree Equity Score unique is that it emphasizes where trees should be planted first. Everyone deserves trees and Tree Equity Score helps make this a reality by prioritizing trees for those who need them the most.

What’s the value of having a tree canopy goal?

A tree canopy goal will help you determine where there is a greater need to invest in planting trees, providing a baseline for comparing neighborhoods and estimating progress towards more equitable tree canopy cover.

If the score in my neighborhood increases, will that lead to gentrification or displacement?

We recognize that planting trees in neighborhoods can exacerbate gentrification. It can increase property values, making it hard for people to pay their rent or mortgage. It can even lead to displacement. People of color and those who have low incomes often are the hardest hit by gentrification. Tree Equity scores can be used to make strategic investments in neighborhoods without displacing the most socioeconomically disadvantaged. They also can be used to generate support for policies that prevent or mitigate gentrification (e.g., publicly subsidized housing, community land trusts and property tax rebates). American Forests designed Tree Equity Score to ensure every neighborhood, regardless of socioeconomic status, has adequate tree canopy. This would mean that one neighborhood wouldn’t present a tree canopy advantage over another.

I don’t see my community on the map. Why is that?

TES focuses on the 486 Census-defined Urbanized Areas, defined as urban areas of 50,000 or more people. If your community falls outside of this region, but you are still interested bringing TES to your community, please contact us

Where did you get all of the tool’s data from?

TES utilizes data from a variety of national and local data sources. For more details about the data used in this site, please see our Data Sources page.

How often is the data you are using updated?

Tree Equity Scores will be updated annually as new census data is released. For data that is not available on a regular schedule, such as high resolution tree canopy cover for a state, region, or city, we will update as resources become available.

I’m looking for specific tree species recommendations for planting purposes. Does this tool offer them?

Yes! Take a look at our resources page for more information and guidance for planting trees in cities.

I've seen my city's Tree Equity Score and I'm ready to go deeper. How do I get TESA for my city?

TESA goes a step further by exploring local conditions and supporting project level-decision making; therefore, it requires more engagement and additional resources.

For more information about how you can bring TESA to your community, please Contact Us.

Tree canopy data provided
by EarthDefine.
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