Urban Tree Utilization and Why It Matters

Lead Author: Dr. Steve Bratkovich

Publish date: 01.23.2008


It's estimated that today there are nearly 4 billion urban trees in the U.S., with another 70 billion trees growing in metropolitan areas. As urban land in the U.S. expands, so do the urban forests. Urban land in the lower 48 states increased from 2.5% of total land area in 1990 to 3.1% in 2000, an area about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Researchers from the U.S. Forest Service project that urban land in the coterminous U.S. will nearly triple in size to over 8% by 2050, an area larger than the state of Montana (Nowak 2005).


Utilization of urban trees for wood and paper products is still in its infancy. However, the idea is drawing more attention from researchers, community officials, arborists, tree care firms, and wood-using industries including bio-energy producers.


Questions that often arise when discussing the potential for urban tree utilization include:


  • How much wood is in our urban areas?
  • What are the major constraints to utilizing this wood?
  • Are there viable examples of urban tree utilization industries?
  • Can bio-energy play a role in urban tree utilization?


This report addresses these questions and concerns.