$50 Million Needed for Research in Urban and Community Forestry


The recent surge of public and private investment, including $1.5 billion for Urban and
Community Forestry through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), was based largely on USDA
Forest Service research that estimated the return on investment in using trees to mitigate the
impacts of climate change on urban residents. The National Urban and Community Forestry
Advisory Council (NUCFAC)
estimates the need for $50 million annually in Research and
Development funding to scientifically measure impacts and learn from such investments.
Topics to research include urban heat and flood reduction, public health improvement, climate
resilience, and addressing the lack of accessible green space in underserved communities.


Research and Development funding is currently limited in urban and community forestry,
resulting in research too often stuck in a permanent “pilot study” mode. Dedicated research
investment is therefore needed to examine evidence and develop strategies to boost the
effectiveness of urban and community forestry and maximize benefits to residents. The
Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC) convened scientists and thought leaders to identify
the following research areas in need of support:

  • Human Health: What are best practices in urban forestry that will sustain and enhance proven human health benefits, such as birth outcomes, mental health, respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and reduced heat-related illness and death?
  • Climate and Resilience: Where and how best can trees be protected, restored, and managed as effective nature-based solutions that will reduce storm damage, erosion, and sedimentation while moderating extreme heat and flooding events?
  • Environmental Justice: How can urban forest planning be improved to help address historic racial and socioeconomic bias in urban policy and lower pollution exposure, improve quality of life, and expand access to green space in vulnerable communities?
Call to Action
May 2024

The SUFC has identified four potential approaches to increase federal research funding to $50 million per year over five years:

  • Increase annual appropriations to the USDA Forest Service and its regional Research Stations and Institutes to expand long-term research and development in urban and community areas;
  • Encourage major federal research funding entities, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, to promote and accept proposals for urban and community forestry on the issues described above;
  • Urge all federal agencies that address human health and welfare, such as Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Transportation, to review programs for research opportunities in urban and community forestry; and
  • Engage the White House to recognize and support research that addresses urban and community forestry as a critical component of nature-based solutions.

This level of investment will allow scientific research about urban tree canopy to:

  • Evolve from isolated pilot studies to long-term longitudinal studies;
  • Evolve from correlation studies to causation studies by determining how much tree canopy impacts human health and safety;
  • Develop voluntary markets that support urban forest management and growth for public health; and
  • Measure the impact on communities of federal surge investments like IRA.

The Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC) is the nation’s only network of nonprofits, businesses, associations, foundations, and others working together to advance sound, effective urban forest policy and practices. The broad and growing membership represents urban planners, educators, arborists, landscape architects, public works and utility associations, air and water quality experts, foresters, scientists, health professionals, tree care companies, landscape and nursery associations, conservationists, and community advocates.