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Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change
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The Tree Canopy Collaborative

Access to trees is a human right. Everyone deserves the cool shade, clean air, better runoff management, and public health benefits that trees provide. Given the vital role trees play, growing the tree canopy across Dane County important, especially in a climate-changing world.

The aim of the Tree Canopy Collaborative is to collectively maintain, protect, and expand public and private tree canopy across Dane County where ecologically appropriate. Within this aim, a particular focus is on ensuring equitable access to trees and their associated benefits for all residents. 

Partnership is fundamental to achieving success. The Collaborative is working collectively to co-develop goals with local experts in order to recognize neighborhood opportunities, needs, and constraints.

Read more about our Collaborative's vision and goals.

Male moth with large antennae

Male spongy moth

Spongy Moth Outbreak

Dane County is currently experiencing a spongy moth outbreak. Learn more about how to identify this pest, protect your trees, and get involved in monitoring efforts to track the spread.


Why Is Tree Canopy Important?

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Environmental Health

Trees provide flood protection, prevent erosion, and are a source of food and habitat to birds and small mammals while also providing opportunities for pollination.

calm hand in tree

Public Health

Trees provide shade, reducing the heat island effect in paved areas, which can mitigate the effects of heat exhaustion. Trees also improve local air quality and reduce air pollution, which directly impacts respiratory health. Trees also boost the mental health of residents by providing mental respite in a developed environment

sunlight through row of trees

Climate Resilience

Trees protect people and property from the risks of climate change, such as by reducing impacts of floods and increased heat. Trees combat climate change by capturing greenhouse gases. By removing carbon dioxide and sequestering it in their trunks and roots, trees reduce the effects of carbon emissions across the county.

How Is Tree Canopy Changing?

On average, villages and towns across Dane County have lost about 12% of their canopy coverage from 2010 to 2017, with decreases up to 38%. This loss is primarily due to disease, but lack of maintenance and ongoing development policies also likely play a role.

Dane County towns and villages with canopy decreases of 30% or higher include Village of Brooklyn, Village of Belleville, Town of Primrose, City of Stoughton, City of Monona. Towns and villages within Dane County with the greatest total acres of canopy lost include the City of Madison, Town of Primrose, Town of Perry, and Town of Vermont. Land use across the county that tended to have the largest percentage decrease of canopy coverage were multi-family housing, single-family or two-family residential housing, and recreational spaces.

Vilas neighborhood canopy map

Vilas neighborhood in the City of Madison is one example of a historically well-canopied neighborhood that experienced an over 30% decline between 2010-2017.

Greentree neighborhood canopy map

Greentree in the City of Madison also has experienced a high decrease in canopy from 2010-2017, while also having a high social vulnerability score.

Investigating Tree Canopy Cover and Race in Madison

Krempely & Cerveny 2021 investigated the relationship between tree canopy and racial, economic, and educational factors in Madison, Wisconsin. The results demonstrate that in race, income, and education do correlate to tree canopy variances in Madison:

  • The most significant demographic-related predictor of tree canopy cover in 2015 and 2020 was housing tenure (i.e., renter-occupied housing had nearly the lowest percentage of canopy cover). In contrast, homeowners in older neighborhoods were significantly canopy-advantaged.
  • Property value and income were also significant predictors for tree canopy, with higher-value homes and higher income positive predictors for tree canopy.
  • An increase in the proportion of the White and Asian populations correlated to an increase in tree canopy, while an increase in the non-white population is related to a decrease in tree canopy cover, but this relationship was weaker and decreased from 2015 to 2020. The Black population had a weak relationship with tree canopy in 2015 and became even weaker in 2020. The Hispanic population had a moderate, negative relationship with tree canopy in 2015 and this relationship weakened in 2020.
  • Highly educated people are also more likely to benefit from greater tree cover. Particularly, those with a Master’s degree or higher enjoy much greater cover than anyone else. 
  • Between 2015 and 2020 the data demonstrate a small shift towards decreasing tree canopy inequalities. 
Read More

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