Promoting Better Forestry on Private Lands

Privately-owned lands constitute the largest part of the tree canopy in most communities, and the biggest opportunity for conservation and growth.

Urban Forestry Toolkit

Strategies to add and conserve trees on private lands

No urban forestry initiative is complete without a comprehensive approach to encouraging — or requiring — a sound approach to forestry on private lands. Often these trees are key to the benefits communities seek: better air quality, effective stormwater management, energy conservation and much more. Most communities deploy one or more of the following approaches:

Outreach and education

Many property owners will do more with trees if they understand how they’ll benefit as they grow. I-Tree Design can show them the value of adding trees to their own properties. And a variety of brochures, fact sheets, videos and campaigns have already been tried and tested. Check out Making the Case for Change for examples of how other communities get out the good news. Even big developers have embraced green infrastructure and urban forestry. Their own trade group, the Urban Land Institute, has published research and case studies that demonstrate how being “greener” adds real value to big developments.


Some communities offer owners the opportunity to save money — or even make it — if they meet standards for green infrastructure and low impact development. Developers that dedicate green space on their property may, for example, qualify for higher density provisions in their permit. Other owners, including homeowners, can reduce their water bill, or stormwater fees, by replacing impervious surfaces with green space and trees. The USDA Forest Service recorded a webinar detailing how communities can implement credits and incentives for tree protection.

Tree Give-Aways

Giving free trees to residents for planting in their yards remains a long-time staple of urban forestry programs. But what happens after the trees “go home” hasn’t been well studied. Before planning your own tree give-away, check out this Forest Service research on what seems to work — and what doesn’t — for tree giveaway programs in five US communities.


Most communities address urban forestry and green infrastructure through a variety of ordinances and regulations.

EPA maintains a website that guides communities as they create local ordinances to prevent and control non-point source pollution. The website features sample ordinances from many communities, arranged by topic or issue.  While none may fit every community, all can provide direction to creating your own suite of local policies.

Related Resources
Urban Forestry Toolkit