Tree Canopy Assessment Report Determines City’s Tree Stock Remained Stable from 2014 to ‘19

Findings from the 2014-2019 Tree Canopy Assessment report commissioned by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and released last week indicate that the tree canopy has remained stable citywide throughout this timeframe as an increase in trees planted on city property balanced out the loss of trees on private property.

The report used a year’s worth of analysis of high-quality, high-resolution LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) images captured during airplane flyovers of the city to learn which areas have the most potential for increased tree cover and how the city’s canopy cover has changed over time. It also “supports efforts to increase access to trees and their benefits in ‘under-treed’ neighborhoods, as a part of the city’s commitment to environmental justice, and aligns with Climate Ready Boston, Imagine Boston 2030, and Resilient Boston,” according to a press release from Mayor Martin Walsh’s office.

“In Boston, we’re committed to growing our tree canopy in an equitable way,” Mayor Walsh said in the press release. “We know that tree cover improves livability, increases shade which helps make neighborhoods more resilient to the severe heat associated with climate change; has positive implications for residents’ health; and makes our entire city more beautiful. This is a comprehensive report that shows Boston the way forward in increasing our tree canopy, and ensuring an equitable city for all.”

Other key findings from the report include: the city’s tree canopy remained relatively stable from 2014 to 2019 at 27 percent of all city land area; 23 acres of new tree canopy were created within the right-of-way due to the city’s investments in the planting, care and maintenance of its street trees; canopy loss varies from the removal of individual trees in backyards to the clearing of wooded areas for new construction; and tree planting and preservation efforts pay greater dividends as trees mature.

 “Shade is an important public good that must be equitable across our city,” said Liz Vizza, president of the Friends of the Public Garden. “It is critical that Boston’s tree canopy be healthy, not only for shade but to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Important tree preservation and replanting work is being done as part of the Boston Common Master Plan, and it is critical to have a visionary plan for the urban tree canopy that shapes a better future for all.”  

In response to findings from the report, Mayor Walsh and the Boston Parks and Recreation Department have issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Urban Forest Plan to “develop strategies to promote growth, longevity and protection of Boston’s urban canopy over the next 20 years,” according to the city.

“Through this report and the release of Boston’s RFP to create an Urban Forest Plan, Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston are committed to fighting climate change, and ensuring we take tree canopy cover seriously across all our neighborhoods,” Parks and Recreation Department Commissioner Ryan Woods said in a press release.

To view the city’s 2014-2019 Tree Canopy Assessment report, visit https://www.boston.gov/sites/default/files/file/2020/09/Change-assessment_w_MJW-letter.pdf.

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