Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Urban Forests

What are urban forests?

Over 141 million acres of America’s forests are located right in our cities and towns. Urban forests come in many different shapes and sizes. They include urban parks, street trees, landscaped boulevards, gardens, river and coastal promenades, greenways, river corridors, wetlands, nature preserves, shelter belts of trees, and working trees at former industrial sites. Urban forests, through planned connections of green spaces, form the green infrastructure on which communities depend. Green infrastructure works at multiple scales from the neighborhood to the metro area to the regional landscape.

A photo of a bench next to a man made pond surrounded by urban trees

Why are urban forests important?

The 2010 census reported that nearly 81% of Americans now live in urban centers, up from 79% just 10 years earlier.  Over this same time frame, urban populations grew by more than 12.1%, outpacing the national growth average of just 9.7%.  It is clear that we are becoming a more urbanized nation.  Because of these growth patterns, urban forests are more important than ever- they are the trees outside our front doors.  They are dynamic ecosystems that provide critical benefits to people and wildlife. Urban forests help to filter air and water, control storm water, conserve energy, and provide animal habitat and shade. They add beauty, form, and structure to urban design. By reducing noise and providing places to recreate, urban forests strengthen social cohesion, spur community revitalization, and add economic value to our communities. 

A photo of a man made pond overlooking a city skyline

Learn more about our work in urban areas