Urban Tree Planting AdobeStock_518773004

Strategic Investments in Urban Tree Canopy: Planning for a 30% Canopy with the Cleveland Tree Coalition

The Cleveland Tree Coalition describes themselves as a collaborative group of public, private, and community stakeholders that have partnered with the City of Cleveland to rebuild the urban forest. The coalition’s mission is: “Striving to create a healthy, vibrant, sustainable, and equitable urban forest by working collaboratively to implement the Cleveland Tree Plan. Together, we’re making Cleveland the Forest City once again.”

In the past decade since their founding, the CTC has raised over $100 million of funding and helps fill gaps where needed for their coalition of 53 members (as of spring 2023).

The Problem

Despite the progress being made by the Coalition, Cleveland is still losing portions of its urban tree canopy every year. Cleveland lost 5% of its tree canopy cover from 2011 to 2017 and if this trend continues the city’s tree canopy cover will fall to 14.8% by 2040, well below canopy levels of other cities in the region. With the loss of canopy comes a loss of benefits to communities that the urban tree canopy would otherwise have been providing.

The following were identified in the CTC Envisioning the Future and Goal Setting Retreat (May 2023) as top losses associated with the loss of the urban tree canopy in Cleveland:

  • Poor air quality and lower health (declining mental health, heat related illness, overall poor wellness, exacerbated health disparities, increased death rates)
  • Worse inequality (inequities around heat, stress, and brownouts, gentrification with migration)
  • Worsening climate impacts (heat island, flooding, reduced climate resiliency, flooding)
  • Communities disconnected from nature (lack of accessibility to green spaces, communities of aloneness and disconnection)
  • Disinvestment and loss of economic prosperity (property values decrease, outward sprawl, less economic mobility, increased energy bills, increased crime, stress on infrastructure)
  • Loss of habitat and natural infrastructure
Urban Tree Canopy Map

Urban Tree Canopy Map

The Solution

The CTC reached out to Sustainable Economies Consulting to help them with the strategic planning, to help the coalition scale up the rate at which trees are being planted in Cleveland while preserving the existing canopy. We also are partnering with Wellstone Collaborative Strategies on this project.

Together with the CTC executive committee and their membership, we designed a highly collaborative strategic planning process with amply stakeholder engagement. The process has involved community focus groups, interviews, the Envisioning the Future and Goal Setting Retreat, and strategy work groups. The final plan will include goals, strategies, outcomes, and a pipeline of projects with funding scenarios.

The full strategic plan report can be viewed here.


Strategic Investments in Urban Tree Canopy: Planning for a 30% Canopy with the Cleveland Tree Coalition

Cleveland, Ohio


Cleveland Tree Coalition, Wellstone Collaborative Strategies

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