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Sustain Louisville project increases tree canopy across the city

New results showed a 1% net increase of canopy, outpacing the annual canopy loss.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mayor Fischer and other community leaders announced the findings of the most recent Urban Tree Canopy Assessment for Louisville on Thursday at Medora Elementary School. 

The new study, commissioned by the nonprofit group TreesLouisville, shows Louisville experienced tree canopy gain while also combating canopy loss.

Tree Canopy is basically the part of the city that is shaded by trees, branches, leaves, and other foliage.

According to TreesLouisville, "a robust tree canopy has everything to do with the health of our community."

Trees have been proven to improve air quality, manage storm water, mitigate the urban heat island effect, support wildlife and reducing carbon. They also improve neighborhood cohesion, increase property values, reduce crime and improve student performance.

In 2013, Mayor Fischer and his team created the Sustain Louisville plan, which aims to reach a goal of 45% tree canopy across the city in 40 years. At the time the tree canopy was at 38%.

The initial Louisville Metro Urban Tree Canopy Assessment that was released in 2015 predicted a steep decline in Louisville Metro’s overall tree canopy. That study documented a loss of the equivalent of 820 acres of tree canopy annually over the study period between 2004 and 2012.  

TreesLouisville commissioned the University of Vermont's Spatial Analysis Lab to do a follow-up study reanalyzing the 2012 assessment and comparing it to the 2019 data.

Not only was the initial assessment proven wrong, new results showed a 1% net increase of canopy, outpacing the annual canopy loss. The assessment also includes recommendations to continue tree canopy growth.

Mayor Fischer said Thursday that "while 1% doesn't sound like a lot, it means really great progress."

He said the 1% increase meant the carbon removal equivalency of taking 2,000 cars off the road, and a tree canopy gain equivalent of over 1,700 football fields.

"That's a lot of trees," said Fischer.

Cindi Sullivan, Executive Director of TreesLouisville said it's thanks to organizations like these that the tree canopy in Louisville is improving:

  • Metro Parks and Recreation’s divisions of Parks Forestry, Landscape, and Community Forestry
  • TreesLouisville
  • Olmsted Parks Conservancy
  • 21st Century Parks
  • Louisville Grows
  • Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

According to TreesLouisville, "Louisville’s tree canopy provides its residents with almost $330M in benefits every year, and an additional $230M in carbon storage over the course of the lifetime of the trees."

To read the full 2022 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment, click here.

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