Urban tree canopy governance and redlined neighborhoods: an analysis of five cities
Author(s)Field, Julia(Julia Marie)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
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Trees provide many environmental, social, and economic benefits. Urban neighborhoods do not have equal access to trees, however. Recent scholarship shows that historically redlined neighborhoods, as demarcated by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) maps, have lower tree canopy coverage compared to other HOLC-graded neighborhoods. This thesis investigates five cities that experienced the largest percent increase in tree canopy coverage in redlined neighborhoods between 2001-2011. These cities are Lynchburg, VA; Haverhill, MA; Birmingham, AL; Charlotte, NC, and Durham, NC. I also update the geospatial analysis to include the most recent 2016 tree canopy data to measure change. I hypothesized that the tree canopy increase was the result of a concerted effort to focus on redlined neighborhoods and that the canopy would continue to increase between 2011 to 2016.Through semi-structured interviews with key government and nonprofit actors, the case studies explore the role of governance in tree planting programs and the implementation of tree ordinances. The results indicate that the canopy increase in these five cities was largely unplanned and not a part of a formal policy agenda. Between 2011-2016, the tree canopy declined by less than one percent in most redlined neighborhoods. Overall, tree canopy increase in redlined areas was due to several factors: individual actors that prioritized planting trees in redlined neighborhoods, city-wide landscaping or tree preservation ordinances, and planting programs done in collaboration with tree nonprofits. Common challenges to increasing canopy coverage stemmed from limitations of the built environment, residents declining tree plantings, a lack of tree advocacy groups, a lack of engagement with neighborhood groups, and issues with municipal funding.These positive case studies demonstrate ways cities can prioritize planting trees in an equitable way and suggest mechanisms to incentivize preserving existing trees. Keywords: urban tree canopy governance, redlining, environmental justice, political ecology, tree planting programs, tree preservation ordinances
Thesis: M.C.P., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, May, 2020Cataloged from the official PDF of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 78-85).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.