City of East Lansing Inventories Trees, Works to Strengthen Urban Forest

Monday, June 26, 2017, 7:35 am
By: 
Paige Filice

East Lansing’s approximately 9,000 trees have been re-inventoried and assessed by the Davey Resource Group. Findings from the study will be integrated with the City’s geographic information system, allowing staff to electronically identify trees, track condition, maintenance, and resident concerns and create planting plans that strengthen the diversity of the City's urban forest. The City’s trees were last inventoried fifteen years ago, prior to geographic information system technology.

Urban trees provide multiple aesthetic and environmental benefits such as reducing flooding, erosion, air pollution, and the “heat island” effect by lowering the temperature and energy demands. Forests in urban areas provide many of the same benefits as natural forest systems, including habitat for native pollinators, migrating birds, and other wildlife, while also providing privacy and shade to community residents.

The Davey Resource Group completed the tree inventory and an Urban Tree Canopy assessment and identified the extent, distribution and trends of trees across the City. The inventory identified location, species, size, maintenance need, risk rating and utility presence. The canopy assessment determined ecosystem benefits of trees, including those found on private property. The assessment aids city managers with understanding tree cover and the amount that could exist. Both projects will help prioritize future planting locations, and allow the City to plan operations and budget effectively to meet community goals.

Hundreds of trees have been planted throughout the City over the last five years through urban forestry grants. Tree plantings have been focused on choosing the right tree for the right place and increasing the diversity of tree species throughout the City. Diversity of tree species improves wildlife habitat and reduces the risk of invasive pests, such as the Emerald Ash Borer. Staff have been working to increase the number of native species planted, as well.

“Ultimately, both the tree inventory and Urban Tree Canopy assessment will equip us with powerful community forestry tools that will allow the City to develop a comprehensive vision and strategy for its community forest,” said East Lansing Environmental Services Administrator Cathy DeShambo. “This update and subsequent integration into the City's geographic information system will help ensure the inventory can more effectively be employed across the community.”

The tree projects were funded by a $17,000 Community Forestry grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the US Forest Service. Final reports on the project will be complete by summer. To learn more about East Lansing’s urban forests, visit the City’s Urban Forestry website.