Data and analysis

Urban Forestry Economic Analysis In Wisconsin

By Olivia Witthun, DNR Urban Forestry Coordinator in Plymouth, or 414-750-8744

Laura Buntrock, DNR Urban Forestry Partnership and Policy Specialist in Rhinelander, or 608-294-0253

Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist in Madison, or 608-445-4578

Ram Dahal, DNR Forest Economist in Madison, or 715-225-3892

We know that urban forests are a vital component of our economy and environment, making significant financial contributions to local, state and national economies, as well as providing critical ecosystem services. But until recently, the economic contribution of urban forestry has typically been aggregated into the broader green industry.


Background On The Study

In the Urban Forestry Economic Study, a ground-breaking study led by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Landscape Scale Restoration grant, a comprehensive analysis of the economic contributions of urban and community forestry was completed across the Northeast-Midwest region, which includes 20 states and Washington, D.C. (Figure 1). This analysis includes economic impact numbers, employment numbers, industry outlook and a resource valuation.

Figure 1. Map depicting the 21 states involved in the survey.

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Establishing Long-Term Plots to Understand Urban Forest Trends

By Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, Madison, or 608-445-4578

How many sugar maple trees grow in our urban areas? Which species are exhibiting health declines? How many logs can be produced from removed ash trees? What is the carbon storage of urban forests? Where are invasive species most prevalent?

Please let us know if you know the answers, as that would save some time.

But in the absence of answers to those and many other questions, an incredible project is underway between the U.S. Forest Service, the Wisconsin DNR and contracted private foresters: the Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis (UFIA) program.

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Mapping Community Trees

By Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, Madison, or 608-445-4578

The United States features a diverse yet complex group of people and locations. The U.S. Census Bureau regularly undertakes an attempt to catalog those people and places.

Likewise, many communities and organizations survey the trees they manage to better understand and maintain their urban forest.

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Please Help Guide The Future Of i-Tree

By Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, Madison, or 608-445-4578

Whenever you hear about the benefits that trees provide to a home, community or region, there is a good chance that that information came from i-Tree, a suite of software from the USDA Forest Service and the Davey Tree Expert Company that quantifies forest structure and estimates trees’ benefits to the ecosystem. Within i-Tree, for example, a user can convert easy to-collect tree data, such as species and diameter, into estimates of the tree’s carbon storage, air pollution reduction or ability to prevent rainwater from entering the sewer system.

While i-Tree has been a foundational tool for telling the urban forest story from the local to global levels, the i-Tree program needs your help to adapt to tomorrow’s management challenges. They are urging current and future i-Tree users to attend one of three Town Hall sessions where you can share your thoughts on what i-Tree has meant to your work and how you think it should change for the future. The sessions are organized by experience level, but if you cannot make your preferred time, select any that might work for you. Additionally, if you cannot attend but are interested in providing feedback, please register as comments can be captured during the registration process.

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Understanding The Extent Of Invasive Species And Other Urban Forest Challenges

By Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, Madison, or 608-445-4578

How extensive are buckthorn and other invasive species in our communities? We don’t know yet, but Wisconsin’s Urban Forest Inventory And Analysis (UFIA) project will be able to answer that and many other questions.

Buckthorn beneath dead ash trees at Big Foot Beach State Park. Photo by Bill McNee.

Besides simple stem counts, we can learn about the type of land where buckthorn is found, species under which buckthorn is growing and trends in invasive species expansion or decline over time.

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Protecting Our Urban Forests to Protect Our Globe’s Biodiversity

By Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, Madison, or 608-445-4578

The natural world lost one of its most ardent champions last month with the passing of biologist Edward O. Wilson. Wilson was an extremely accomplished observer (especially of ants) and theorist of nature, winning two Pulitzer Prizes among many other awards and accolades. However, he dedicated himself to cultural and political campaigns to protect animal species and their homes for much of the last two decades.

Wildlife benefits are lumped in amongst other “ecosystem services” that urban forests provide, though they often play second fiddle to more human-centric contributions of trees.

Likewise, the urban forestry community’s excellent focus on species diversity (especially in light of emerald ash borer) is framed by diversity’s role in mitigating future damages and costs, rather than what diversity can offer to wildlife or any intrinsic value of maintaining many species on the landscape.

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DNR Releases New Climate Change And Urban Trees Story Map

By Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, Madison, or 608-445-4578

Successfully planting a tree in an urban space is hard. There are so many factors to consider to ensure that the tree survives and thrives in its new home. Climate change may not be at the top of that list, but it should be one of the factors taken into consideration.

To help think through the topic, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released a new story map that explores urban trees and climate change in Wisconsin.

The new resource is organized into three main sections. The first provides a brief overview of projected changes in Wisconsin’s climate over the past century, specifically highlighting shifts in cold hardiness zones and heat zones. Precipitation patterns and intensities have and are projected to continue changing, though precipitation is not featured in the story map’s overview. For more information on that, scroll down to the precipitation section on the DNR climate science page.

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The Winter Triumph of the Evergreen

By Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, Madison, or 608-445-4578

Sunlight fades, then sunlight grows. With those celestial rhythms surrounding the winter solstice, millennia of ritual have been shaped. Winter is historically an extremely dangerous time, in a way unfathomable to those of us with furnaces and stocked pantries. But at the winter solstice, something important happens: ever so gradually, the days start to lengthen, and there is hope that a bright, warm world will return.

That’s where evergreens enter the picture, plants that have been incorporated into solstice rituals since time immemorial because they show that life can continue through hardship. The foundational value of every Christmas tree, mistletoe sprig and holly branch is thus a symbol for life and the promise of rebirth comes with the winter solstice.

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What Accounts For Your Neighborhood’s Tree Canopy?

By Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, Madison, or 608-445-4578

When I returned to my hometown neighborhood in northeast Ohio this past August, I was delighted to rekindle my friendship with so many trees that I have known most of my life. There are, of course, the Norway maples and crabapples and blue spruces found in maintained spaces throughout eastern America. One also finds a fair number of sugar maples and Ohio buckeyes. But despite apparently living in a democracy, red oak is king of my neighborhood.

During this visit, I did something that I don’t always do; I looked down. What I saw concerned me. Or, rather, what I didn’t see. Few trees had been planted in a decade, and fewer still will grow into canopy-replacing size. Windstorms were slowly bleeding the neighborhood of its great oak and maple trees, but there were no longer any kings or queens being coronated.

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A New Way To Measure Tree Equity

By Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, Madison, or 608-445-4578

One needs only to look outside their window or at an aerial image to see that trees are not distributed evenly in their community. Of course, this is often expected and not indicative of any significant problem. One would expect, for example, for many parks to have more trees than densely developed parts of town.

However, sometimes uneven canopy distribution reveals something more harmful – that some neighborhoods and communities, often more wealthy ones, enjoy more canopy cover and thus more of the benefits trees provide. To help identify and mitigate this issue, American Forests recently released Tree Equity Score.

Figure 1 – an example of Tree Equity Score used in Oshkosh, WI. See the score along with demographic and environmental information on the left column.

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