This Urban Tree Canopy Assessment Update can be a valuable resource for a variety of groups in understanding their current tree canopy and developing plans for the future.

The study has shown a slight decrease in canopy throughout the County since the 2013 Assessment, but communities can be encouraged by several caveats:

  • Trees take time to grow. Many of the plantings that have occurred over the past decade may still be too small to register – minimum height of eight feet and six feet canopy diameter. As an example, Cleveland Metroparks has planted more than 30,000 trees over the past five years, that have not grown sufficiently to officially register as part of the canopy. As a consequence, the impacts of the Cuyahoga County Healthy Tree Canopy Grant Program (2019) may take several years beyond the planting period to register in future updates.
  • Losses could have been worse. The protected natural areas of the Cleveland Metroparks showed about the same rate of loss (nearly 6%) as the County as a whole (6.1%). Considering that the privately-held lands outside of the park system are subject to continued development pressures, it is encouraging to see that losses were not greater.
  • Diversity in tree species can help to avert large losses in the future. Arborists, landscapers, and landowners have become increasingly attuned to the need for diversification of species for new tree planting.

At the same time, large losses due to clear-cutting highlight the need for continued vigilance by communities and land use regulators to support healthy forest canopy through proper management and enforcement of existing ordinances and regulations. Communities that lack such protections should seek guidance from experts identified in the resources section of this study.

Moving forward, the Assessment Update can serve as a foundation for more targeted work by communities, watershed groups, neighborhood organizations, and property owners. While each of those stakeholders may have different priorities, the findings in this report and accompanying website can help support those priorities, including the aforementioned Cuyahoga County Healthy Tree Canopy Grant Program.

For example, the City of Cleveland Tree Plan (2015) has emphasized equity in guiding its tree-planting efforts. Socioeconomic data on concentrations of poverty and race, when combined with indicators of low tree canopy can help develop those place-based priorities. Other prioritization studies have focused on large land owners, vacant land, and parks. For more information on these prioritization approaches, see the available publications on the US Forest Service website which “describe various aspects of the Urban Tree Canopy suite of tools, including Assessment, Prioritization, Marketing, and Change.”

Additional Information

  • More information on local reforestation efforts and best practices is available from the Cuyahoga River Restoration’s education resources page.
  • More information on Urban Tree Canopy Assessments can be found at the US Forest Service Urban Tree Canopy site, including links to other studies and further research topics.
  • The Division of Forestry of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources provides a wealth of information for local communities in its Urban Forestry Toolbox, including Community Program Management, Tree Care, and Other Resources.
  • For insights into the interaction between trees and stormwater, see Trees & Stormwater, developed by the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI). The site includes guidance for communities throughout the country, including a vast “Resource Library”, and a unique “Document Builder” to build your own case for implementing trees in your stormwater management plan”.

Special thanks to Jarlath O’Neil-Dunn of the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab for their excellent land cover analysis, and for providing templates for the metric graphics and for portions of this report’s narrative content; to Stephen Mather and Constance Hausman of Cleveland Metroparks, and Alan Siewart of the Ohio Division of Natural Resources.