Free new software from the U.S. Forest Service finally puts a dollar sign on the well known claim that urban trees have a value far beyond just making city dwelling tree lovers feel good. The software – and yes, it is free – is called i-Tree. It’s designed to help stakeholders and students measure the value of investing public funds into planting urban trees. That’s no chump change: one example is Chattanooga, TN, which used the software to demonstrate a $12.18 return on the dollar.
New, Improved Free i-Tree Software
Actually, the i-Tree software has been around since 2006. What’s new is the latest version, i-Tree v. 4, which was just released last week. It’s more accessible to lay people including homeowners, garden centers, and educators. It also has a Design function that links to Google maps, making it easy to check out the impact of tree planting in a single yard, on up to whole neighborhoods. Other Google map links are designed to provide planners with a relatively simple, inexpensive way to gauge the vale of a tree canopy, and to evaluate the impact on stormwater management. These are sophisticated analytical tools that until now have been prohibitively expensive for many public administrators.
What’s a Tree Worth, Anyways?
Aside from the Forest Service, there are other sources for assigning a dollar value to urban trees. One study commissioned by the Urban Forest Ecosystem Institute came up with a $90,000 return on an investment of $250-$600 per tree planting, which included three years of maintenance. The study identified more than 20 distinct benefits of urban trees (pdf) aside from aesthetics, including impacts on public security, traffic safety, public health, asphalt lifespan, economic activity and property values along with more familiar benefits like temperature control, air pollution control and stormwater management.
Image: Urban Tree by www.metaphoricalplatypus.com on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.