Counting on Houston’s trees

The largest city in the largest state in America has an urban forest to match. And now, for the first time, information about Houston’s trees is available online. The My City’s Trees web application is a free tool that makes community tree data easily accessible to the public.

With just a few clicks of a mouse, anyone with access to the Internet can explore Houston’s urban forest, the benefits it provides and the contributions trees make to the environment, economy and the well-being of the city’s residents. One key benefit measured in the application is the amount of energy-savings that trees produce for the community.

“We’re very excited, because the timing for this web tool could not be better for us,” said Jeff Taebel, Director of Community and Environmental Planning for Houston-Galveston Area Council. “We just received a grant from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry in Communities and American Forests to do a major urban forestry project. And one of the keys to this project is having a better understanding of our forests. This web tool gives us, for the first time, some information on the urban tree canopy that could really help our partners know what’s going on with our forests.”

The Texas A&M Forest Service My City’s Trees app is based on data gathered through the Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis program, a partnership between federal and state forestry agencies across the nation.

Urban FIA data reveals information about Houston’s urban forest such as tree species, age range and canopy cover provided by trees. With regular surveys, My City’s Trees will compare that data over time, showing change — including that resulting from urban forest management decisions.

“The fantastic thing about Urban FIA and My City’s Trees is that the data is collected on a repeated basis so it’s not just a single snapshot in time,” said Gretchen Riley, Texas A&M Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program Partnership Coordinator.  “Communities will be able to utilize this information to make decisions about the future and to look back and see how those management decisions actually affected the urban forest.”

Houston is the second Texas city, after Austin, to complete an Urban FIA survey and be included in My City’s Trees. San Antonio is on deck to conduct a survey this year as are several other cities across the nation. Once completed, they also will be included in the web app.

Watch the My City’s Trees video and explore Houston’s urban forest yourself by visiting My City’s Trees or by watching the introductory webinar.