The Private Urban Forest

Tomorrow Foundation Tree Count
Tomorrow Foundation Tree Count

About this project

In the summer of 2021 we conducted a pilot project in the Queen Alexandra Neighbourhood where we gathered information about the trees on private property.

The private urban forest refers to the “trees that reside on private property and are therefore not maintained by the City of Edmonton.” The oldest private trees in the City typically sit on properties of the oldest homes because they are often planted at the time a property is developed. Due to their larger size, older more mature trees are also the trees that provide the most benefits for climate and other ecosystem services. The larger they are, the more they can do to clean our air, absorb stormwater, reduce GHG emissions from our atmosphere, and provide potential energy savings to homes. Infill housing development sites are also a place where the City’s tree inventory is actively changing; older trees are often removed while new trees are being planted. As infill occurs to accommodate population growth and densification plans, mature trees are often lost due to the land being cleared for new development. Therefore, infill developers are key decision-makers in preserving trees in the City as well as deciding what new trees will be planted. It is important to engage them to better understand the current and future state of the private urban forest.

This project is linked to an increasingly important topic of how Edmonton can continue to grow with the desired densification through infill while also meeting its climate resilience goals. For example, the Edmonton City Plan  is a roadmap for how it will manage its long-term growth while doubling its size and continuing to be a healthy and climate resilient City. One part of the Plan discusses the Greener as We Grow initiative which is an initiative to plant 2 million trees in the City and to help achieve a community-wide carbon budget target and ultimately support a net zero GHG emissions per person goal. Another part of the Plan is to help the City meet its population growth and increased housing needs through densification by supporting 50% of net new units to be infill. Both of these initiatives in the Plan are intended to bring about more sustainable and healthy living in the City of Edmonton. Our hope is that this project sheds light on how these two initiatives interact and how thoughtful urban planning could lead to more trees being preserved and planted as well as more infill housing development to support a more sustainable, walkable-bikeable, 15-minute City. Thus, it is important to get a better inventory of trees on private property in order to better understand these interactions in Edmonton and how it is changing.

You can read our final report in it’s entirety here

This project is done in partnership with:

Alberta Real Estate Foundation
Alberta Ecotrsut