Urban Forests Provide Americans with Critical Services

WASHINGTON, October 7, 2010 – A new report by the USDA Forest Service, Sustaining America’s Urban Trees and Forests, provides an overview of the current status and benefits of America’s urban forests that affect the lives of nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population.

“For many Americans, local parks, yards and street trees are the only forests they know,” said Tom Tidwell, Chief of the US Forest Service. “More than 220 million Americans live in cities and urban areas and are dependent on the environmental, economic and social benefits provided by these trees and forests. This report shows the challenges faced by privately and publicly owned forests and offers some cost-effective tools to boost the effectiveness of future land management.”

The distribution of urban forests varies from community to community, but most share the same benefits provided by city trees: improved water quality, reduced energy use, diverse wildlife habitats and increased quality of life and well-being for residents.

As densely populated areas expand across the country, the importance of these forests and their benefits will increase, as will the challenges to conserve and maintain them. City managers and neighborhood organizations can benefit from a number of management tools listed within the report, such as TreeLink, a networking website providing technological information on urban forest resources to be of assistance for challenges facing their local trees and forests.

The report also notes that urban trees face challenges over the next 50 years. For examples invasive plants and insects, wildfire, air pollution and climate change will all have impacts on the tree canopy of cities across America.

“Urban forests are an integral part of community ecosystems, with numerous elements that significantly affect the quality of city life,” said lead author David Nowak, a US Forest Service Northern Research Station researcher. “These trees not only provide essential services but also increase property values and commercial benefits.”

Sustaining America’s Urban Trees and Forests is produced by the Forests on the Edge project.

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to State and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.