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City of Boston Tree Canopy Assessment released

The report shows Boston's tree canopy remained stable from 2014 to 2019. Investments in trees on City property balanced the canopy loss on private property.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the release of the 2014-2019 Tree Canopy Assessment, the result of a year's worth of analysis of high-quality, high-resolution LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) images captured during airplane flyovers of the City. The Boston Parks and Recreation Department commissioned the report to discover which areas have the most potential for increased tree cover, and how the City's canopy cover has changed over time. 

The Tree Canopy Assessment report 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 BostonImagine Boston 2030, and Resilient Boston. Information provided in the report is critical to the creation of the City's first Urban Forest Plan, as well as future policy and planning efforts, including guidelines for tree canopy protection on public, private, and institutional property.

"In Boston, we're committed to growing our tree canopy in an equitable way," said Mayor Walsh. "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." 

Tree Canopy Assessment Report key findings include: 

  • Boston's tree canopy has remained relatively stable from 2014 to 2019 at 27% of all city land area.
  • Tree canopy loss varies from backyard individual tree removal to the clearing of wooded areas for new construction. More tree canopy was lost on residential land than any other land use type.
  • Boston's investments in the planting, care, and maintenance of its street trees are paying off, as evidenced by the 23 acres of new tree canopy within the right-of-way.
  • Tree planting and preservation efforts are effective and pay greater dividends as trees mature.
  • Land use history, decisions by individual property owners, and new construction all play a role in influencing the current state of tree canopy in Boston. Understanding these factors and identifying strategies to mitigate them will help us focus City efforts on addressing disparities in access to green space.

The report is available on

"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," said Boston Parks and Recreation Department Commissioner Ryan Woods. 

On September 28th, the City of Boston released a RFP to create an Urban Forest Plan in Boston as it seeks a partner to develop an equitable vision for the protection and expansion of the City's tree canopy goals. The Urban Forest Plan is an opportunity for Boston to establish a new vision for the City's tree canopy goals that are aligned with the goals of Imagine Boston 2030 and Climate Ready Boston, while also developing the supporting policy and programs for implementation of this vision. The project team will closely coordinate the planning process with ongoing planning and implementation led by Climate Ready Boston in the Environment Department. Ongoing coordination will cohesively integrate the citywide vision for growing a healthy urban forest into other heat resilience strategies. The growth and development of Boston's urban forest will serve to not only reduce urban heat island effect but also improve the quality of the city's ecology. 

In addition to the investment in tree canopy analysis, and the $500,000 budgeted for the Urban Forest Plan, historic investments in Boston's public spaces this year will also support the hiring of a new arborist and the planting of an additional 1,000 trees, doubling the yearly total to 2,000 trees planted per year.

"I applaud the City of Boston's commitment to maintaining and expanding the urban tree canopy and recognizing its importance to a healthy city. Accurate and regular canopy assessments are essential for evaluating progress and identifying opportunities," said Lucy Hutyra, Associate Professor of Earth & Environment at Boston University. "The report's recommendations will help build consensus and urgency around preventing canopy loss, on both public and private property, and identify key areas for expanding canopy."

The Tree Canopy Assessment is a critical piece of the vision for the City's tree canopy goals, laid out in the Imagine Boston 2030 and Climate Ready Boston planning efforts. Mayor Walsh Climate Ready Boston in 2016, an initiative to develop resilient solutions that will prepare Boston for the effects of climate change: flooding due to sea-level rise, increased storms, and extreme heat.

About the Boston Parks and Recreation Department

The Parks and Recreation Department creates and maintains clean, green, safe, and accessible public parks and open space throughout Boston. The department is responsible for 217 parks, playgrounds and athletic fields, two golf courses, 65 squares, 17 fountains, 75 game courts, 16 historic and three active cemeteries, urban wilds, four High School Athletic Fields, and approximately 125,000 trees, all covering 2,346 acres, 1,000 of which comprise the historic Emerald Necklace. Parks and Recreation is also responsible for more than 35,000 street trees.

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