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Detroit could use 1.2 million more trees, study says

Nonprofit to release ‘tree equity’ scores for urban areas

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DETROIT – The city of Detroit could use more trees — about 1.2 million more, according to American Forests.

The Washington-based, nonprofit conservation organization on Tuesday published Tree Equity scores for 150,000 neighborhoods in 486 urbanized areas.

Each score is based on how much tree canopy and surface temperatures align with the number of people living in a given area or neighborhood, income, employment, race, age and health factors. The scores indicate whether there are enough trees for everyone living in those areas to experience the health, economic and climate benefits that trees provide.

Low-income, predominantly minority neighborhoods have fewer trees than wealthier, mostly white areas, according to Chris David, American Forests geographic information system and data science vice president.

The premise of tree equity “helps cities identify where to target places that have been historically ignored,” David said. “Where the places are that lack trees historically have underserved people in poverty, people of color.”

Trees improve the quality of life in neighborhoods by providing shade that reducing heat-related health issues. They also improve air quality by helping to reduce air pollution and create jobs involved in the care of trees, the nonprofit said.

Data from the U.S. Census, Department of Agriculture and U.S. Geological Survey was used to help calculate the scores.

A score of 100 represents Tree Equity. Detroit’s score is 80. The Phoenix area has a score of 80 and Rhode Island’s Tree Equity is 73. Seattle has a score of 90.

The scores can be used determine how many trees need to be planted in communities and funding needed to ensure their long-term care.