City of Cleveland Announces New Equity Focused Approach for Tree Planting

Trees are a critical part of our community. They make neighborhoods healthier and safer, add economic value to homes and businesses, and help meet important environmental challenges. Based on this, in the 2018 Cleveland Climate Action Plan, the City of Cleveland adopted a goal to restore its tree canopy to 30% by 2040.

In 2019, Mayor Frank G. Jackson committed an additional $1 million per year for 10 years to support expanded tree planting efforts. In 2020, the City utilized this funding to increase tree plantings on public property by nearly 300% over the previous five-year average.  As the City continues to increase tree planting, it is also looking to re-focus its planting efforts to address equity. Tree canopy is not spread equally across the City and trees are a useful resource to address a number of health, economic, and environmental factors that are disproportionately concentrated among the vulnerable populations.

To more effectively address this, and build on its commitment to use sustainability to address equity, the City of Cleveland is shifting its approach for tree planting. Currently, the City targets planting to areas below the Citywide tree canopy average as identified in the 2020 Cleveland Tree Plan update. Beginning with the Spring 2022 planting cycle, the City will put a greater emphasis on targeting planting in areas where trees can address more issues. Building on the Tree Equity Score developed by American Forests, the City has constructed an index targeted to local concerns where trees can be an important piece of the solution. The Tree Equity Score evaluates data at the U.S. Census Block Group level around:

  • Existing tree canopy;
  • Population density;
  • Income;
  • Employment;
  • Surface temperature;
  • Race;
  • Age; and
  • Health.

Due to some of the unique local factors, the index developed by the City of Cleveland build on this work by including measures related to:

  • Utility burden;
  • Air quality; and
  • Stormwater management.