“The Tree Equity Score will support our efforts to address the intersecting ways that environmental injustice, systemic racism and resource inequity shape Providence’s urban forest.”
– Cassie Tharinger, Executive Director, Providence Neighborhood Planting Program 

Improving Equity with Trees

New Tree Equity Resource Visualizes Tree Inequality in Rhode Island

Downtown Providence
Downtown Providence, RI
Increasing urban tree canopies is one of the most important things a community can do to improve its quality of life. Trees clean the air, provide shade and cooling, reduce energy bills, absorb stormwater, reduce violence, and increase property values. Unfortunately, tree canopy is spread unevenly, and whiter and wealthier neighborhoods tend to have more access to the many benefits that trees provide. 
American Forests, the oldest national conservation organization in the U.S., recently released Tree Equity Scores for Rhode Island. The scores are derived from an analysis that includes current tree canopy cover, unemployment, age, race, income and surface temperatures. The Priority Index is then adjusted by a neighborhood’s population density and compared to surrounding neighborhoods in order generate a Tree Equity Score of 0-100, with the lower number being neighborhoods that need more investment. Explore the online maps to see if they match up with your understanding of the neighborhoods you know.

The initial launch of the scores took place in Rhode Island, Maricopa County AZ, and the San Francisco Bay area of California - places with different ecosystems, demographics, and economies.
Tree Equity Score Map
The lowest score I was able to find for Rhode Island was a 27 for a census block in Woonsocket, while a variety of census blocks in urban/suburban Rhode Island had scores of 100 for census blocks and communities with tree canopies as high as 58%, and poverty rates of less than 10%.

The Tree Equity Score was created to help communities direct tree planting resources to those parts of the community that could use it the most, and in which increased canopy would give the most value for the money spent. For example, a neighborhood in Barrington with abundant tree canopy and little poverty does not need the supplemental boost a neighborhood in West Warwick or Woonsocket should be getting. 
“Rhode Island’s climate resilience action strategy, Resilient Rhody, prioritizes nature-based solutions and the Tree Equity Score provides the data needed to accelerate tree planting in communities with the highest need.”
– Shaun O’Rourke, Chief Resilience Officer for the State of Rhode Island
This resource can allow Rhode Island to better direct its resources and plant the trees where the Tree Equity Score indicates higher priority areas. Please share this resource with your communities and connections in Rhode Island. Together, we can help our communities by improving current by increasing tree canopy where it is most needed.
Click to Explore Tree Equity Map
Example of high tree canopy
Example of high tree canopy: Willow Street neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. This neighborhood has a Tree Equity Score of 100 with 36% canopy cover.
Example of low tree canopy
Example of low tree canopy: Ohio Ave. neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. This neighborhood has a Tree Equity Score of 60 with only 9% canopy cover.
Create Your Own Tree Planting Profile
American Forests developed the Tree Equity Score Analyzer (TESA) as a way for municipalities to improve their Tree Equity Scores. TESA is a map-based planning tool that allows users to create their own custom tree planting scenario and quantify the climate and health impacts of their projects, including carbon sequestration, rain interception, energy savings, air pollution captured and more. Rhode Island is the first location to pilot TESA.
The Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition provides communication resources, trainings on maintenance of green infrastructure installations, and shared knowledge on successful sites and green infrastructure installations around the state.
Nature At Work is a newsletter designed and distributed by the Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition to bring more green space news to our cities and encourage the use of nature to clean, protect, and cool our neighborhoods.  Because of climate change, we are seeing increased heat impacts in our city, especially where there are fewer trees, as well as issues with flooding and polluted runoff in our neighborhoods.

The Green Infrastructure Coalition is a collaborative of more than 40 non-profit organizations, businesses, and government agencies focused on using nature to reduce stormwater pollution. We develop projects to demonstrate the powerful role nature can play to create healthier urban environments. We promote policies to create sustainable funding for stormwater management and green infrastructure solutions. And we connect a wide range of partners to share lessons learned in the Providence Metro area and Aquidneck Island.

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