Magazine article American Forests

Growing Forests in Our Own Backyards

Magazine article American Forests

Growing Forests in Our Own Backyards

Article excerpt

WHEN YOU HEAR the word "forest," what do you think of? The mighty redwood forests of northern California with thousand-year-old trees rising hundreds of feet into the air? The majestic pine forests of the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West? The eastern hardwood forests, filled with an enormous variety of maple, ash, elm, oak, beech, aspen and other tree species?

What you may not think of is your local park, your community garden or the trees that line your street. Many Americans live in forest ecosystems and don't even know it. But unlike forests in wilderness areas, they require routine--and substantial--human intervention to keep them healthy and growing.

At American Forests, we define urban forests as "ecosystems composed of trees and other vegetation that provide cities and municipalities with environmental, economic and social benefits. They include street and yard trees, vegetation within parks and along public rights of way, water systems, fish and wildlife."

Urban forests provide many of the same benefits that large, rural forests do. For example, they produce oxygen, remove pollution and greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, clean water and provide animal habitat. But trees and greenspaces in populated areas also produce a number of benefits that might surprise you. Various studies have shown:

* Residents living in greener surroundings report lower levels of fear and less aggressive and violent behavior.

* Street trees in urban communities are associated with a lower incidence of childhood asthma.

* Views of nature reduce the stress response of both body and mind when stressors of urban conditions are present.

* Shoppers shop more often and longer in well-landscaped, tree-rich business districts and are willing to pay more for parking and up to 12 percent more for goods and services.

* The presence of larger trees in yards and as street trees can increase home values throughout neighborhoods by four to 15 percent.

During the past year, American Forests has been working with urban forest advocates and experts around the nation to identify best practices and create new ways to promote the benefits of urban forests. What we have found is truly inspiring--private citizens, nonprofits, corporations and local, state and federal agencies all working together to make cities greener, healthier and more livable. …

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