Northern Forest Futures Project

Urban and Community Forests

[image:] urban forest with buildings in background

Urban and Community Forests

Urban and community forests are the trees and forests found in cities, towns, villages, and communities. This category of forest includes both forested stands in rural areas and trees along streets, in residential lots, and parks. These trees within cities and communities provide many ecosystem services and values to both urban and rural populations.

Key Findings

  • Urban and community lands together cover 8.5 percent of the North.  The State with the highest percent urban and community land is New Jersey at 44 percent; Vermont has the lowest at 3 percent.
  • In the North, 80 percent of the population lives in urban areas which cover 6 percent of the region’s land base.
  • Urban area growth in the North totaled 4 million acres from 1990 to 2000
  • Most of the urbanization in the North in the 1990s occurred in agricultural (42 percent) and forested (37 percent) areas.
  • The six U.S. States with the greatest increase in percentage of urban land between 1990 and 2000 were in the North: Rhode Island (5.7 percent), New Jersey (5.1 percent), Connecticut (5.0 percent), Massachusetts (5.0 percent), Delaware (4.1 percent), and Maryland (3.0 percent).
  • The estimated proportion of tree cover in Northern States is 46 percent for all land uses (forest, agriculture, urban, community, and other) combined, with the highest proportion in New Hampshire (90 percent) and the lowest in Iowa (10 percent).
  • Within urban and community lands in the North, tree cover averages 39 percent while impervious cover averages 20 percent.

From Forests of the Northern United States, NRS-GTR-90, 2012.


Number Indicator Current condition ratinga Recent trend condition ratinga Rating explanation
34 Urban and community land     Eighty percent of the population in the North lives in urban areas, which comprise about 6 percent of the region’s land area. The area of urban land increased by nearly 4 million acres or 0.9 percent from 1990 to 2000, and roughly 37 percent of the new urban area came from forests. (See also Population and urbanization, item 35.)e.
35 Population and urbanization, projected to 2050     Losses of forest land to urbanization are expected to continue. By 2050, Rhode Island (71 percent), New Jersey (64 percent), Massachusetts (61 percent), and Connecticut (61 percent) are expected to be more than half urban land.
36 Tree and impervious cover in urban and community areas     Northern urban or community areas have about 20 percent impervious surface and about 39 percent tree cover. By comparison, rural forest cover across the region is about 42 percent. As they expand, urban and community lands reduce the area of rural forest land but retain some tree cover.

Highly Positive 




Highly Negative 


Maps and Figures

[map:] Population density by county, 2000, in the Northern States
Population density by county, 2000, in the Northern States
[map:] Urban or community land in the Northern States
Urban or community land, 2000, in the Northern States
[map:] The number of forest-associated species—vascular plants, vertebrates (excluding freshwater fish), and select invertebrates—that have been extirpated within each State; map by Curtis Flather (USDA FS 2011e, NatureServe 2010.
Urban or community land, 2000, in the Northern States

For additional detail, see Criterion 8: Urban and community forests in the Forests of the Northern United States.