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Seattle makes list of best U.S. cities for urban forests

Seattle is among the nation’s top ten cities for urban forests. This might sound like a no-brainer, but many cities that take pride in their trees did not make the cut. 

The Washington, DC non-profit American Forestsbased the list on surveys of urban forestry programs in the nation’s fifty most populous cities.

They looked at things like percentage of parkland per capita, overall forest ecosystem health and public engagement. They wanted to reward cities that value urban trees as more than decorations, using them strategically to reduce air and water pollution, for example, and even to fight urban stress.

American Forests CEO Scott Steen says Seattle stands out for its comprehensive approach.  

“Seattle really came across as being a leader in many of those areas," Steen said. "The city has a well-articulated urban forest management plan. It has clear urban canopy goals, inventory of all the trees on public land in the city, great comprehensive greening plans. So it really is a mature program.”

Portland, Sacramento and Denver are the only other cities in the West to make the cut. You can see the full list here.

Some tree-heavy cities not among the top ten are Detroit and Chicago.

Seattle CityArborist Nolan Rundquist says it’s great to be included.

“We’ve been preaching that trees are more than just a pretty face for a long time,” Rundquist says. “Selling the environmental benefits that we get: the clean air, the clean water, people that live around trees are healthier as a result of having a good canopy.”

Rundquist says Seattle is working on updating its urban forest plan, with a goal of increasing the canopy so it will cover 30 percent of the city by 2037. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to