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Midwest Urban Tree Canopy Project

For urban forestry programs to be effective and sustainable, it is necessary to understand the nature of a community's urban forest resource, specifically its size, species distribution, land use, and land cover.  Urban forest managers are now able to adapt new technologies in remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) to create an effective means of identifying these components. This aerial analysis is called an urban tree canopy (UTC) assessment and it represents the new direction in enhanced monitoring and management of the urban forest.

In 2009 the Michigan and Ohio Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) collaborated with six municipalities, a private geospatial data contractor and a university to propose a multi-faceted project focused on characterizing local UTC. The project was funded by the USDA Forest Service in 2010 and this website has been developed to host the project results and data and to provide relevant educational resources for urban forest managers, educators and citizens alike.
Participant Interactions
The project is a multi-state partnership that involves federal, state, and local governments and agencies, as well as the private sector. Each participant interacted with multiple other entities, exchanging either money, resources, or both, resulting in a complex web of transactions.
The image to the left depicts a simplified version of the flow between the project's partners.

The UTC Assessment Process
In general, municipal boundaries, land use, land cover, and infrastructure data were submitted in the form of geographic information system (GIS) layers by each of the six cities to AMEC Environment and Infrastructure, a private sector consulting firm. These data, integrated with aerial imagery provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provided AMEC with the information needed to perform a UTC analysis. These analyses identified tree canopy size and composition for each city, and showed locations where the urban forest could potentially be expanded within the project areas.                       

The Next Steps
The reports generated from these analyses allow municipal governments to better understand how their urban trees are benefitting the area, in terms of both economic savings and ecosystem services. This information informs planning decisions that city officials make regarding their urban forestry programs. However, the ultimate goal of this project is to provide the urban forester with tools and a proven and easily replicable template they can use, in the hope that the results of these studies will provide the rationale for other local governments to perform their own urban tree canopy analyses.

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