Urban trees well-loved by private residential landowners

MADISON — Private residential landowners feel the most important benefits the trees in their yard provide are beauty, shade and cooling, improved air quality, privacy, and making their neighborhood a better place to live, according to the results of the recent Wisconsin Urban Landowner Survey.

As part of a joint project involving the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Extension and the U.S. Forest Service, 6,000 surveys were sent to private residential landowners including apartment and condo owners, homeowners and multi-family housing unit owners in Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee and Wausau.

More than 1,700 landowners responded, primarily single-family homeowners, providing insights about their attitudes toward tree care, concerns about tree risks and their tree management choices such as pruning and planting.

“While most people see the trees on their property and in their neighborhood as being very beneficial, they typically don’t think of the critical role they play as landowners in caring for the health of the trees in Wisconsin’s cities,” said Katy Thostenson, DNR division of forestry social science analyst. “The Wisconsin Urban Landowner Survey project aims to help urban residents take a new look at the trees and open spaces in their own yard, take steps to be an active steward of their trees and think of their yard as a piece of the wider urban forest in their community.”

A majority of Wisconsin’s 42 million urban trees, 69 percent, grow in residential areas and will continue to face threats from storm events, disease and pests such as Emerald Ash Borer, and development. Urban trees provide valuable benefits for the people who live and work in cities and suburbs, such as improving air quality, reducing energy costs and absorbing storm water, along with many physical and mental health benefits.

Most respondents perceive important benefits from trees on their properties; however, there were significant differences depending on where they live. Suburban homeowners and those with larger properties perceive their trees as more beneficial and have fewer concerns about property damage from trees. In comparison, city homeowners, who own smaller properties and live in more densely populated areas, believe trees pose a greater physical risk to their property. These risks can be reduced through proactive tree care.

The survey also reveals that respondents seek advice and trust information provided by private tree care professionals, followed by their family and friends, and then by municipal, state and nonprofit professionals.

“These results suggest communities would be well-served by communicating how to best care for trees by partnering with professional arborists and personal networks such as neighborhood groups, as people are most likely to act on advice given by those they know and trust,” said Associate Professor Bret Shaw, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Life Sciences Communication in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and communication specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

The full report can be found on the Forestry Insights website at forestryinsights.org/urban-forestry (exit DNR).

For more information on urban forests, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords “Urban Forest.”

Funding for the Wisconsin Urban Landowner Survey project was provided by a U.S. Forest Service grant and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.