Which US Cities Have The Best ‘Urban Forests’?

 @MarkJohansonIBT
on February 05 2013 5:05 PM
  • Austin
    Austin has 36 acres of park per 1,000 people and a diverse tree canopy thanks to strong partnerships between nonprofits and government agencies. Reuters
  • Charlotte
    Charlotte estimates that its trees provide more than $900,000 in energy savings annually. Reuters
  • Denver
    Colorado’s capital estimates that $18 million in tourism can be attributed to its park systems. Moreover, it says the urban forests increase health benefits by as much as $65 million. Reuters
  • Milwaukee
    Milwaukee’s urban forest is believed to remove nearly 500 tons of pollution annually, accounting for up to $2.59 million in savings. Reuters
  • Minneapolis
    A canopy of trees covers a whopping 31 percent of Minneapolis, and the city boasts one park every six blocks. Reuters
  • New York
    New York’s urban forests store 1.35 million tons of carbon at a value of $24.9 million dollars and remove more than 2,000 tons of pollution each year for a total of $10.6 million in value. Reuters
  • Seattle
    Seattle not only has water recreation aplenty, but old-growth forest, a sandy beach and lake all within city limits. Reuters
  • Cherry Blossom: Washington Celebrates 100 Years of Gift of Trees from Japan
    The cherry blossom trees in full bloom around the Tidal Basin in Washington, March 19, 2012. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the gift from Japan to the United States that started with a planting ceremony between then U.S. First lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador. REUTERS/Larry Downing
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When it comes to making a commitment to green spaces, one conservation organization’s new study finds that some of America’s cities are doing a much better job than others.

Washington-based American Forests released a list of the 10 best cities for “urban forests” on Tuesday, looking at which urban centers are working the hardest to improve their green infrastructure.

The nonprofit defines urban forests as “ecosystems of trees and other vegetation in and around communities that may consist of street and yard trees, vegetation within parks and along public rights of way, and water systems.” It believes these places provide communities with environmental, economic and social benefits, as well as necessary habitats for fish and wildlife.

“As communities across the country manage more and more for the impact of climate change and other critical environmental and social challenges, their urban forests become even more important to the health of their city,” said Scott Steen, American Forests' CEO. “Whether it is achieving cleaner air and water, managing storm water, reducing energy usage or stemming erosion, no two cities have worked exactly the same way to achieve their place on our top 10 list, but they each serve as a role model for others.”

American Forests worked with a panel of experts from a broad range of urban resources and scientific disciplines to identify the best performers out of the United States’ 50 most populous cities. Funded by the U.S. Forest Service, the teams looked at the degree of civic engagement, management practices, accessibility to the public, overall health, and the development and implementation of green spaces in each location.

Dr. Kathleen Wolf, a research social scientist at the University of Washington and member of the judging panel, said, “Research shows that the social, psychological and economic benefits of urban forests are substantial.

“A quality urban forest improves quality of life in ways that go well beyond the benefits that are more often cited: carbon reduction, clean water and storm water filtration.”

Urban forests also, the study says, increase property value, reduce energy costs and lower medical bills by improving human health.

With more than 80 percent of Americans now living in cities and towns, American Forests believes these urban havens are more important than ever.

Scroll through the slideshow above for a look at the 10 cities the organization believes are models that other cities should emulate.

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